OXFORD — Hotels in Oxford will see a rise of 2 percentage points in its lodging tax on June 1, from 6 to 8 percent, the City Council decided during its Tuesday night meeting.
City leaders met with representatives from 17 of 20 hotels within city limits in an earlier meeting to discuss the tax, which will take an additional two percentage points from charges to “rooms, lodgings and accommodations” for transients — in this case, people passing through town, like tourists — and applying the money elsewhere. Revenue generated by the tax increase itself will go to public safety and events, while the remainder of the tax revenue will be marked as general purpose funding “for any lawful municipal purpose,” according to the text of the ordinance.
Mayor Alton Craft said hotel representatives wanted clarification about the tax and how it will be applied. He said they were satisfied with the city’s explanation of the ordinance, which would direct part of the funding toward the city’s Metro Area Crime Center, a planned communications hub for regional law enforcement agencies, and other portions of the money toward drawing large events to the city.
“Things that are going to be at least a one- or two-night stay, that’s going to help the hotels out,” Craft said in the pre-meeting work session.
He added that hotel owners requested to sit in on event planning meetings, and he approved the request.
“We welcomed them with open arms,” he said.
The ordinance stipulates that the tax won’t be applied to any lodging that lasts more than 180 days; lodging that is connected to recreational and educational programs for children and students, or the members or guests of nonprofit organizations; lodging provided by privately operated camps and conference centers catering to those same groups; or any lodging in connection with projects of the Alabama Film Office.
During its meeting, the City Council also:
— Approved an amendment to its ordinance defining where and how signs can be displayed on commercial property in the city, allowing signs to be attached to building fronts along roadways. Requirements as to the height and size of the sign depend on multiple factors.
— Discussed a resolution to adopt a sales tax incentive program for new businesses to the area, in which the businesses can apply for up to $100,000 in sales tax rebates from the city. One program stipulation was that new businesses project more than $50,000 in taxable sales for each year. Councilman Steven Waits said the figure was too low. The resolution was tabled for further discussion before the next council meeting.