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Rowan County’s occupancy tax changed to flat, 6 percent rate

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Less than a week after receiving authority from the state legislature, the Rowan County commissioners on Wednesday gave final approval to a merger between the county’s two tourism authorities and a uniform 6 percent occupancy tax.

Currently, hotels, motels and other lodging businesses in Salisbury pay a 6 percent occupancy tax. Outside the city limits, a 3 percent occupancy tax applies.

Starting Sept. 1, all hotels, motels and lodging businesses will be subject to a 6 percent countywide tax. The city’s occupancy tax authority will be repealed at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 31 as a result of commissioners’ vote on Wednesday.

Commissioners were given the authority to make the taxing and tourism changes as a result of legislation handled by state Rep. Carl Ford, R-76.

Ford’s proposal, contained in Senate Bill 552, passed the N.C. General Assembly and became law at 1 a.m.Friday. His proposal was the result of a request by the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau in March. That meeting included discussion about the fact that any new hotel outside Salisbury would have a tax advantage over those in the city limits.

Ford said the tourism changes required more work than he had ever put into a bill before. For months, it stalled in a committee. Then, after the bill passed the N.C. House, state senators took all the occupancy tax bills and put them into a single measure.

“It just came down to a lot of work behind the scenes,” he said.

On Wednesday, commissioners didn’t spend a lengthy amount of time discussing the matter before unanimously approving the changes. Briefly, commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene questioned why no residency requirement would exist for members of the CVB’s new board.

Greene asked whether bureau CEO James Meacham thinks the new board should contain a such a requirement.

“Just looking at it, we would hate to have the taxing authority that would be made up of a majority of folks outside of Rowan County. That would just seem to be a concern to me,” Greene said.

Meacham said the CVB can implement its own bylaws on residency requirements.

Five members of the new, consolidated tourism board will be selected by county commissioners and five will be appointed by the Salisbury City Council. One person will be selected by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

On Wednesday, Meacham asked commissioners to reappoint five existing CVB board members. Four of the five are Rowan County residents. They include Steve Hall of Hampton Inn, Amy Baudoin of Morgan Ridge, County Commissioner Craig Pierce, Kelly Alexander of the N.C. Transportation Museum, and Darrell Blackwelder, former Rowan County extension director.

County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the tourism-related changes should not affect the city of Salisbury’s input on the CVB board.

Commissioners unanimously approved Meacham’s request.

At a later date, members of the CVB board will have their terms staggered, he said.

Meacham said he also will communicate with owners of local lodging businesses to notify them of the occupancy tax changes.

In addition to the tax and tourism board changes, Ford’s measure sets spending rules for the occupancy tax revenue. At least two-thirds of it must be used to promote travel and tourism. The remainder must be used for tourism-related expenditures, according to the bill.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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