Sweetwater city commissioners on Monday unanimously voted to require lodging businesses to charge their guests a 2.25 percent privilege or “hotel” tax.
The ordinance, No. 969, had been tabled since fall but was passed on a second and final reading and after much public discussion during the last several months. The new law requires all motels, bed and breakfast operations and campgrounds to implement the tax.
Most of the motel rooms in Monroe County are located in Sweetwater but the city has never had a hotel/motel tax. Instead, the county implemented a hotel tax years ago but Sweetwater city officials want revenue from the nearly 500 motel rooms in town to go toward promoting tourism.
Motel owners in Sweetwater have been outspoken against the proposed tax, saying even a small tax would force their economy-minded customers to look for rooms in other towns. The proposed hotel/motel tax started out at 5 percent but Sweetwater commissioners had always been open to considering a lower tax rate.
Motel owners went before County Commissioners requesting the county considering lowering its hotel/motel tax but had no luck.
Motel owners made one last pitch on Monday to get commissioners to delay a vote, saying they expected to meet with state lawmakers later this week, as a state bill prohibiting new motel taxes could be considered.
Commissioner Lamar Hughes and Sam Moser voted to give the motel owners time to meet with state officials but were out voted by Commissioners Ed Lee, Billy “Buster” West and Bill Stockton.
“The only thing we are doing is kicking the can down the road,” West said of delaying a vote any longer.
West and City Recorder Jessica Morgan both said because Sweetwater had a Home Rule Charter, the state would likely not be able to outlaw a hotel tax if the City Commission passed one.
West finally made a motion for a 2.25 percent tax and it passed unanimously.