Rowan County occupancy tax bill passes NC House
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — The N.C. House on Monday passed a bill that would give the Rowan County commissioners the ability to raise the county’s occupancy taxes to a uniform 6 percent rate.
Currently, occupancy taxes are 6 percent within the Salisbury city limits and 3 percent in the county. The taxes are charged at hotels, motels and other lodging facilities. The Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau board voted in March to increase the county’s occupancy tax to 6 percent and asked state legislators who represent the area to introduce a bill doing the same.
Within a week of the Convention and Visitors Bureau vote, state Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, introduced a bill that would let individual towns levy a 3 percent occupancy tax. Ford said the bill did not initially mirror the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s plan because he needed to file the measure just before a deadline pertaining to local matters.
After waiting for months, the bill moved out of committee last week and was passed on its second reading by a vote of 99-17. It passed its third reading on Monday evening by a 97-21 vote. Both of Rowan County’s members of the N.C. House — Ford and Rep. Harry Warren, R-77 — voted for the measure. All of the legislators who voted against the measure were Republicans.
The newest version of the bill gives county commissioners the authority to raise occupancy taxes. It does not give individual municipalities the ability to raise or lower occupancy taxes.
Ford said the members who voted against the measure often vote against all occupancy taxes.
“I tried to tell them it’s not raising the tax. It’s giving the locals the ability,” Ford said. “They see it as a tax increase. … If you want your local bill to pass, you have to support other people on their local bills.”
He said the bill now mirrors what the Convention and Visitors Bureau requested.
It requires at least two-thirds of the revenue received from occupancy taxes to be used to promote travel and tourism and the remainder for tourism-related expenditures. Promoting travel and tourism could include advertisements, and other tourism-related expenditures could be expenses that increase the use of lodging, meeting or convention facilities, according to the bill.
The bill also reduces the number of Convention and Visitors Bureau board members to 11 and sets a balance in appointment powers between county commissioners and the Salisbury City Council.
Ford’s bill increases the number of owners and operators of hotels or taxable tourist accommodations on the board from two to four. It reduces the number of individuals who have an interest in tourism development and don’t own or operate taxable tourist accommodations from four to two.
The occupancy tax bill now moves to the state Senate, where it will be ushered by Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, Ford said.
Rowan County’s occupancy tax bill does not require the governor’s signature. It will become effective after passing the Senate.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correctly state how Ford’s bill would affect appointments to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau board.
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