Hotel tax tabled

Published 12:01 am Thursday, February 21, 2008

NATCHEZ — Whether the city will tack an additional charge onto hotel rooms remains unknown.

The board of aldermen met Wednesday to discuss whether the occupancy tax should be the initial $1 per occupied room or if it should be raised to $2 to compensate for the removal of the proposed restaurant tax.

What was intended to be a meeting to decide on the amount of the room charge, turned out to be a meeting on whether there should be an additional charge at all.

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Jack Sours, vice president and general manager of Isle of Capri Casinos, wanted to know what would be done with the extra money coming from the tax.

He said before the tax is raised, the end goal should be known first.

Also, he showed concern about how much tax is too much.

Connie Taunton, director of tourism, said in comparison to many competing markets in Mississippi, the proposed tax increase is still low.

Taunton stressed that the tax is needed for the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Mayor Phillip West said as far as marketing goes, Natchez is not in the game.

“We don’t have enough money to market this city,” he said.

Taunton said in order to make money you have to spend it and numbers show that for ever $1 spent on marketing, $10 come back into the community.

Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, said the organization could use money for promotion of Natchez, as well.

Sers Seshs Ab Heter-C.M. Boxley suggested that some money be allocated to promoting the black community at such places as the Forks of the Road and the National Association for the Preservation of African-American Culture museum.

Alderman David Massey agreed.

“The black area definitely needs to be marketed because I think it’s an untouched gem in this city,” Massey said. “I think it’s an untapped resource.”

Alderman James Ricky Gray said the issue needed to be tabled until everyone could come to an agreement.

“Everyone needs to come together,” Gray said.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she felt this decision was being rushed.

“I’m just not, at this point, ready to be rushed into this new idea,” Mathis said. “What we’re looking at in a rush always looks good but hindsight is 20/20.”

Mathis echoed Gray’s sentiment when she said everyone needs to come together on this issue before it comes to a vote.

West decided to table the issue until the regular aldermen meeting Tuesday.

“There’s no need voting on such a divisive issue,” he said.