Hotel tax money being budgeted

Published 12:06 am Friday, July 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — In the next three days, the marketing advisory committee must propose a budget for the monies accrued through the $2 occupancy tax.

It is clearly outlined in the legislation for the occupancy tax that the committee must submit their proposed financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year to the Natchez Convention and Promotion Commission by Aug. 1.

Sally Durkin, media liaison for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the members of the newly appointed committee have been mailed a copy of a skeletal marketing plan.

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“They’re going to review it and come to the table,” she said.

With the committee having only been appointed last week at the regular commission meeting and the Aug. 1 deadline barreling down, the CVB almost missed the mark.

Sen. Bob Dearing said had they not proposed the plan to the commission by Aug. 1, they more than likely would not have been able to spend the money until the next fiscal year.

“The law’s the law,” Dearing said.

Durkin said the legislation will be adhered to strictly.

“Legislation is law,” she said. “It’s the law and that’s the reason you have these things legislated so they’re followed to the letter and that’s how money is protected from any other use than marketing.”

Once the plan is placed before the commission on Monday, the commission members will review it and make final tweaks.

Then it must be presented before the Natchez Board of Aldermen by Sept. 1 for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The tax takes effect Aug. 1.

On Aug. 4, the marketing committee will officially meet for the first time — with a state tax commissioner and the lodging industry present.

“The reason (a commissioner) is coming here is to speak to the lodging industry,” Durkin said. “We want to do a uniform thing throughout the lodging industry.”

This week a letter was sent from the state tax commission office to all local hotels and bed and breakfasts, informing them of the appropriate way to add it to the bill.

“Anytime a new tax is instated, it’s the tax commission’s responsibility to inform the collectors of such as to what the procedures are as far as collections and how it will be disbursed back to the city,” Durkin said. “It’s just a standard operating procedure for them.”

She said it’s going to be listed on the invoicing as an occupancy tax “because that seems to be the universal language used, at least throughout the United States.”

Durkin said thus far working with the committee has gone well.

“I feel confident we’ll be able to start spending that money as early as January,” Durkin said.