Huntsville mayor vetoes lodging tax increase

Huntsville City Council passes lodging tax increase

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - UPDATE: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has vetoed the previously approved 1 percent lodging tax.

“We all have the same desire -- to do what is best for our community,” said Mayor Battle. “Passing a tax just to have future dollars to spend without designation is not right. The people who earn the tax dollars that are paid to the City of Huntsville work very hard, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. They trust us to spend their resources conservatively.”

The Mayor expressed his gratitude to Council for their work and concluded his message by saying, “We all have the same goals, just different ways of achieving them.”

Mayor Battle outlined his reasons in a message to the council:

  • The City of Huntsville already has a solid financial model to pay for the amphitheater.
  • The lodging tax increase puts the City of Huntsville at a disadvantage in competing for travel and tourism.
  • The tax is not needed due to a balanced budget.
  • Additional tax amid the COVID-19 virus exacerbates the financial burden on the hospitality Industry, a critical sector of our economy.
  • All projects in the Capital Improvements Plan have been identified and budgeted.

On Thursday night, the Huntsville City Council approved the tax by a 3-2 vote. The tax would have been used to fund the City’s new amphitheater at MidCity District.

ORIGINAL: After a rough week in the hospitality industry, people begged Huntsville leaders to reconsider a lodging tax increase Thursday night. After much discussion, the City Council passed the tax.

Leaders have discussed this 1 percent increase for a while now. The revenue would pay for a $40 million amphitheater.

But with the latest developments in the coronavirus outbreak, hospitality industry leaders say the timing could not be worse.

“If we have another week like we’ve had this week, there will be no need for a third hotel and possibly not the two I have right now. We have 185 rooms and we lost $90,000 overnight,” said Wanda Morgan of Kana Hotel Group.

“The coronavirus and the losses you’ve heard that all of us have suffered this week are an example of the detriment financially of losing these conventions and events,” said Harmony Heard of the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association.

Council members considered postponing the vote but ultimately decided to pass it in a 3-2 vote.

Jennie Robinson and Will Culver voted against it.

“These people who know this business this market, and we need to listen to them. I can’t think of a worse time for us to do this,” Robinson said.

“I just want to say to the hospitality industry it’s easy to look ta the direct impact. I’ve been told we just don’t have the money," said council president Devyn Keith.

Mayor Tommy Battle could veto this. If he does, it would take four council member votes to override the veto.

As of right now, the tax increase would go in effect April 2021.

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