By John Balch
The Murfreesboro City Council has some questions about the proposed “tourism tax” being pitched by the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce before deciding whether the tax will be put to a public vote or imposed by the council.
The chamber has proposed a two-percent tourism tax that would generate revenue for an “advertising and tourism fund,” which would be governed by a local seven-person commission and used to promote the area’s tourism. The proposed tax would be collected on hotel and motel accommodations, restaurants and tourist and amusement attractions within the city limits.
When the proposal was pitched last month, it was thought the tax would have to be put to a public vote. But, chamber member Jane Fugitt said Monday night research has determined that as long as the tax is under three percent it can be approved by ordinance and imposed by a council vote.
Mayor Rodney Fagan and council members all noted they were in favor of the tax but one concern is since restaurants would be involved that it would involve taxing locals.
“My question is: if (the proposal) includes restaurants, should it involve a public vote?” said Mayor Fagan.
The mayor said the council needs to decide before next month if restaurants should be removed from the proposal and if the proposal should be decided by the public or a council vote.
“I’d hate to tax the local folks without their say-so,” said council member Rob Evans.
One solution, according to Mayor Fagan, would be to remove restaurants from the proposal and then, if the tax is approved, study the funds generated by the tax over time and determine if it is enough 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, then the city ordinance could be amended at any time to include eateries.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” said chamber member Jean Floyd, who added that public sentiment so far is in favor of the tax, even if it includes restaurants.
The council voted to table the proposal until next month’s meeting.
In other business Monday, the council will begin considering a proposal by homeowner Mark Barnes for the city to annex his residence on Stevens Lane into the city limits.
The council heard an update from Code Enforcement Officer Ricky Branch. Branch reported that he has issued six building permits since September 2017.
Branch issued a reminder that anyone within city limits considering building or adding on to a structure should contact him through the Murfreesboro City Hall to see if a building permit is required.
The council also learned Monday that a home on South Washington Avenue that has been demolished for some time now and currently sits in one big pile will soon be separated into smaller piles and burned.
The council also approved Recorder/Treasurer Penny Lamb’s financial report, which included the following beginning and ending balances for February:
Water & Sewer Dept.