Elmore Co. lodging tax increase draws criticism

Some fear the increase will drive customers a few exits down the interstate for lower rates.
Some fear the increase will drive customers a few exits down the interstate for lower rates.

PRATTVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Elmore County motel and hotel owners are upset over a bill to raise lodging taxes.  The tax would go up from 12.5% to 16.5%, providing a revenue source for the county's Economic Development Authority.

It's estimated to bring in around $300,000 dollars-- money that the county is currently paying.

Elmore County Commission Chairman Joe Faulk said, "We're going to have expend additional dollars in the future, so we need to replace funds out of the general budget now that are going directly to economic development."

Faulk says it's common for lodging taxes to pay for local economic development and tourism agencies.  He says, "It does not ideally affect the people who live in that community."

But hotel owners in Prattville, especially those along exit 179, believe they are being targeted.  Out of the roughly 750 hotel rooms in the County, nearly 700 of them are in Prattville.

Toni Colquitt, General Manager at the Hampton Inn in Prattville, said, "It's not fair for our guests to have to fund the development for Wetumpka, Tallassee, Eclectic, or even Millbrook."

She fears travelers will drive a few exits down the interstate for lower rates.

"It would make our taxes higher than any in the River Region, as well as higher than any in the State of Alabama," she added.

The tax must be approved by the legislature, and because Elmore County's Economic Development Director Barry Mask is also a local State Representative, some wonder if that's a conflict of interest.

Faulk says it's just county leaders being proactive to keep the county solvent.

"I am surprised at the reaction. It's just because we haven't talked about it in the public enough to let people know what our needs are," Faulk said.

Since all the local legislators aren't for the bill, it will likely not pass.

In that case, the County will continue to fund the Economic Development Authority.

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