County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt said that the money raised from the taxes would not only go to promoting tourism but to the Expo Center and its operation.
“In effect, we would be able to utilize this money at the coliseum/expo center and bring the general revenue tax back into the general fund,” he said.
County Judge David Silva interjected, “In other words, we would not have to spend so much of the general fund.”
DeWitt, after the meeting, said that according to information he has received, both the venue and occupancy tax can be used to fund the operation, maintenance and needed improvements at the Bee County Expo Center.
This could ultimately help cut the amount of money needed from taxpayers to fund the county budget.
“This is for the benefit of the all-seeing, never- blinking camera there — we are not asking the citizens of Bee County to put another tax on themselves,” said Silva. “It is a tax that will come from other sources.”
Commissioners are actually looking at two separate taxes — both set at 2 percent. One tax is enacted by Legislature approval and the other voter approval.
The first of these is referred to as a hotel/ motel occupancy tax and it requires approval of the state.
DeWitt said that state Rep. J.M. Lozano has agreed to sponsor the bill and Texas Sen. Judith Zaffirini is contemplating co-sponsoring it.
Linda Bridge, county tax assessor/collector, said, “The state has a 15 percent cap on hotel, motel occupancy taxes.
“The state collects 6 percent. Most cities and municipalities collect 7 percent, so there is a 2 percent window there that can be captured by the county.”
And this tax could come relatively quickly
Silva said, “It is my understanding that if they vote on this and it passes with a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate, it could be enacted immediately.”
Silva also reminded the court that they needed to ensure that this applied to all hotels and motels within the confines of the county.
Bridge responded, “It is a broad spectrum and it covers any hotel or motel in the county whether it resides in a municipality or not.”
But just how much would the county see in revenue?
Bridge said, “I asked the city (of Beeville) for their last four quarters. They, of course, collect 7 percent. When you extrapolate out 2 percent, a year’s collection for this would be $186,995.
“That does not include two of the larger hotels that we have.”
This could total four times the current budget for the Expo Center.
The second tax sounds quite similar except that instead of approval from the government, it requires voters to give the go-ahead.
This time, it’s referred to as a venue tax.
“What we are really looking at is a hotel occupancy tax which would be an additional 2 percent on top of the other two,” Bridge said. “This is an effort to take the burden off the property owner and taxpayer and place it on visitors who come in and use the facilities and the things that Bee County offers.”
Commissioners will likely approve a task force of county officials first to determine what the money would be used for and then form a task force comprised mainly of residents to get their thoughts.
The idea for this venue tax came about after DeWitt and Commissioner Ken Haggard attended an economic development meeting in Cuero where Diane Probst, with the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, was speaking.
“She was talking about the venue tax and Commissioner Haggard’s and my ears started wigging — this sounds pretty good,” DeWitt said.
Bridge, unbeknownst at the time to the two commissioners, was already working on the occupancy tax and was able to expedite both and get the information to commissioners because of work done by both her and Haggard.
The venue project tax includes a variety of taxing options for the city and county.
According to information received from the chamber, “The venue project revenue sources that can be adopted include a sales tax, a hotel occupancy tax, a short-term motor vehicle rental tax, an event parking tax, an event admissions tax and a venue facility use tax.”
Bridge said that they expect only to be looking at the hotel occupancy tax.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.