Riverfront tax bill would fund convention center costs

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, May 15, 2007

VIDALIA — Vidalia’s Riverfront may soon be the source of its own funding.

A bill being considered by the state legislature, introduced by District 21 Rep. Andy Anders will reclassify the Vidalia Riverfront allowing the Vidalia Riverfront Authority to levy an occupancy tax on hotel and motel rooms and overnight camping facilities within the riverfront district.

Comfort Suites and the Riverview RV Park are currently the only businesses on the riverfront that will be affected by the bill. Exceptions to the tax include hospitals or hospice care within the district.

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The bill restricts the riverfront authority from levying any other taxes, and limits the tax to not more than six percent of rental or occupancy fees.

The occupancy tax is akin to a tourism tax, and will support the operation of the riverfront, Copeland said.

The bill states the tax funds will be used to fund the costs of the Vidalia convention center, including but not limited to acquisition, construction, equipment, operation, maintenance and support costs.

The 26,000-square-foot convention center will open in early July, Copeland said.

A $2.8 million, 14,000 square foot addition incorporating a Red Cross evacuation shelter will be made to the building later this year.

“The conventions that will be coming into Vidalia will be a tremendous asset to the hotels and eating establishments,” Copeland said.

Most municipalities have some sort of similar tax, he said.

Natchez has a three percent convention and tourism tax on all hotel and motel rooms.

The tax will be collected at the time of payment for occupancy services.

The bill — House Bill 526 — was passed by the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs May 10, and is pending final passage.