Hotel-Motel Tax discussed again in Harlan


December 14th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials in Harlan discussed at length the Hotel/Motel tax at a Personnel and Finance Committee meeting Thursday. The meeting in the City Council Chambers was held to as a means of moving forward discussion of the tax money, and how it can be handled. City Attorney Joe Lauterbach presented his report regarding 4 questions on the tax and then gave a recommendation to the committee. The questions ranged from the City’s responsibilities with the money to the 20% administration fee going to the Chamber of Commerce.

Lauterbach told the Committee and the public in attendance that they must move forward, Lauterbach1: “The last thing I ever want to see is the City and Chamber at loggerheads. I am moving on and I can look back at this thing. I’ve been the City Attorney 1991 and having them at loggerheads makes no sense at all. I think you have to work things out and move forward.” He also spoke about the detriment this is doing to the community. “We are trying to sell Harlan and Shelby County to people who want to be involved. When they see the Chamber and the City at odds with one another, are they going to come around here? The less negative vibes we created at these meeting, the better off we will be as a county and community.”

Jerry Henshied was in attendance and gave his input on the 20% fee. “Anytime you have a tax you have to have someone to administer it. The property tax is Terry Cox and he administers it. Somebody has to take care of the tax and do something with it. The state road tax, if it says for roads, of course it is for roads. But someone has to over see it. For tourism, someone has to over see it. Is someone supposed to do this for nothing? I mean it is incidental to it.”

Shelby County Chamber Director Dawn Cundiff told the Committee there is a lot of time spent on how to use the tax. “I really think there is a lack of knowledge on how much time it really does take. The Chamber has been taking care of this for the lifetime of the Chamber. Everything we do, whether it be retail or business there is that for tourism, as well as signage, marketing and advertising.” After more discussion, Lauterbach made a recommendation to the Committee.

“What I’m saying is go forward and fix it. If you don’t like the way the ordinance was written, then fix it. If we are going to continue to administer this and you are going to give us the $70,000 over the next 10 years or whatever it is per year, we are going to take 20 percent. Then the City Council says we aren’t going to do this, and then they amend the ordinance and we move forward. That is what I am suggesting.” The Committee then agreed to not go back and ask for reimbursement on the previous Hotel/Motel Tax money.

The next motion was made by Committee member Dave Miller: “I think the ordinance as passed is a little open ended. I would like to see more finite detail on that. I would like to see more details in it. That would be my recommendation. I would like to encourage a motion that we place the disposition funds on hold to the Tourism Committee until we have a lot more in depth ordinance in place.” The motion was approved by the Committee. Before the ordinance can be re-written, the Harlan City Council and the Shelby County Supervisors must approve the minutes from the Personnel and Finance Committee Meeting Thursday. Both organizations will meet on Tuesday, December 18th.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)