Hotel & Lodging Association 'blindsided' by Biloxi's tax proposal - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hotel & Lodging Association 'blindsided' by Biloxi's tax proposal

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Jessica Bowman – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi will ask the state legislature for permission to raise the city's hotel motel tax rate. City Council members approved the measure at a special meeting Wednesday night, and that has some people very upset.

The meeting was called with just 90 minutes notice, and the reason for the tax is a bit unclear.

Linda Hornsby, Executive Director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, released a statement to the media saying her organization was "blindsided by this hasty action."

Hornsby said they knew nothing of the proposal or the meeting "until three minutes before it was to begin via a telephone call from someone who had just learned of it."

Mayor A.J. Holloway was among those who thought the council's decision was made too quickly. During the meeting, the mayor told council members he thought they should get input from Biloxi innkeepers and others in the tourism industry before voting on the issue.

Council members said the meeting was hastily called to meet an approaching deadline in the state Legislature.

"We're not passing the tax, we're just asking the legislature if we can have the authority to look at it," Council President Bill Stallworth said.

"As I've said time and again, revenue is not the problem, spending is the problem," Holloway said after the meeting.

The mayor also questioned the legality of imposing such a special tax without a defined purpose for the revenue.

Stallworth said, "What that tax would do is to help offset some of the shortfalls that are in the city's budget."

"Citizens of Biloxi write it on the wall honey, this gets passed it's going to the George [Ohr] O'Keefe Museum," resident Mary Rose Lehay said.

Linda Hornsby also had some questions about where that money would go.

"I also take issue with a Resolution for a Room Tax with no specification nor restriction as to how the funds are to be utilized, which is unprecedented to date," Hornsby said.

Another issue on the table, will voters have the final say on a tax increase?

"When this council endorsed the coliseum expansion legislation, when this city council endorsed it,  it was with a referendum. Why then and not now?" Hornsby asked.

"Before any consideration about actually enacting the tax we will meet with the hotel/motel association, the hotels, the casinos, everybody who is affected to get their input," Stallworth promised.

Councilman David Fayard authored the proposal to add up to $5 per room, per night to hotel and motel bills.

The next step in the process is for Mayor Holloway to either sign off or veto the resolution. If he does sign off, then the legislature will have to pass it. Council members said if that happens, they will immediately begin talking to the affected industries and schedule public meetings to get input from citizens on the proposed tax increase.

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