Editorial: One for all, all for one
The end may be near for different occupancy tax rates at Rowan County hotels and lodging, depending on whether they are in the Salisbury city limits or beyond the city. This could be a positive, unifying move for Rowan.
During a meeting last week, the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted to seek a uniform 6 percent occupancy tax countywide. Tourism advocates recommended such a move years ago, when the rate was 3 percent countywide. An increase to 6 percent was recommended, but members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners didn’t like that idea. The vast majority of people paying occupancy taxes are not Rowan residents, but some commissioners at the time let it be known they nevertheless disapproved.
Salisbury officials wanted the higher rate, though, so they asked a local legislator to introduce city-specific legislation. The bill, which passed, established a separate Salisbury Tourism Development Authority that could get revenue from an additional 3 percent occupancy tax in the city for tourism purposes and set aside a third of the proceeds for capital tourism projects in Salisbury, such as trolleys, signs, Christmas lights, sculpture shows and, soon to come, improvements in the Railwalk area downtown.
Most establishments charging the tax are in Salisbury and use the 6 percent rate: Econo Lodge, Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Days Inn, Comfort Suites, Super 8, Quality Inn, Happy Traveler, Economy Inn, Affordable Suites, Executive Inn, Volonte and three bed-and-breakfast inns on Fulton Street, according to James Meacham, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those collecting occupancy taxes outside the city — at a rate of 3 percent — are Sacred Grove Retreat and Helms Lodge, both in Gold Hill; Center Motel in Kannapolis; cabins at Dan Nicholas Park and Carolina Country Campground; and an expanding inventory of Airbnb properties. Total occupancy tax revenue for this year is projected at $885,000.
The legislation that tourism officials want would not only set a uniform rate — one that matches Cabarrus County and is still less than Mecklenburg’s 8 percent rate — it also would designate that a third of all occupancy tax revenue be used for tourism capital projects anywhere in Rowan. As the state widens Interstate 85 and growth opportunities open up, more funds will be needed for signs and other amenities. This way, tourism revenue is all in one pot to be shared by the whole county — all for one, one for all, working together to welcome travelers to Rowan County.