Murfreesboro City Council approves ‘tourism tax’ that excludes town’s eateries

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    By John Balch

    News-Leader staff

    The Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce wanted more.

    But, Murfreesboro City Council members said they had heard enough concerns from locals about the proposed “tourism tax” that the council approved an altered version of the tax proposal, Monday night, that will exclude eateries.

    The approved two-percent tax will be collected on motel and hotel accommodations and tourist and amusement attractions within the city limits. The tax, at this time, will not be collected on the town’s eateries, as chamber officials had hoped after learning that most towns who have similar taxes also tax eateries.

    The council voted 4-2 in favor of the altered tax proposal. Voting for the measure to exclude restaurants were Jeff Walls, Jason Allmon, Debbie Shukers and Betty O’Neal while “no” votes were cast by Linda Stone and Rob Evans.

    By law, the tax can be approved by ordinance and imposed by council vote since it does not exceed three percent.

    The council had raised concerns at previous meetings that including restaurants would effectively be taxing local residents, who some have voiced their concerns to council members. There has also been council concerns that if eateries were included that the measure should be put to a public vote instead being approved solely by council action.

    “We’re here to encourage you to approve this tax as presented,” said chamber member Jane Fugitt, who was backed at the meeting by chamber officials Ricky Branch, Laurie Westfall and Jean Floyd, before discussion began on the issue.

    “We want to go forward,” Fugitt added. “And we’d like to do it now.”

    The altered motion approved by the 4-2 vote to implement the tax included a clause that can allow the tax to be studied later to determine if funds generated will be adequate to accomplish the chamber’s goal of aggressively promoting the area’s tourism and creating a full-time tourism headquarters. If the tax funds fall short, the council could amend the tax ordinance at any time to include eateries.

    The two-percent tax will generate revenue for an advertising and tourism fund that is separate from the city and will be governed by a local seven-person commission. The commission will be made up of two members from the council, two from the chamber, two local business people and one at-large position.

    In other business Monday, the council voted 6-0 to annex the home of Mark Barnes into the city limits. Barnes’ property is located on Stevens Lane. The council also agreed to pay the $310 Barnes will need to run legal notices in the local newspaper.

    The council also heard from Mayor Rodney Fagan that Pineview Manor Apartments are close to $10,000 behind on its water bill. Fagan said water commissioners are reluctant to turn water off at the complex because tenants’ rent includes their water bills. “It’s not their fault,” said Fagan, who added that the city is currently researching legalities to resolve the issue.

    The council also approved Recorder/Treasurer Penny Lamb’s financial statement, which included the following beginning and ending balances for March:

    General Fund

    $239,872/$239,476

    Street Dept.

    $162,934/$167,663

    Water & Sewer Dept.

    $248,207/$253,902