April 9, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Hotel tax revenues in the city of Starkville are down substantially over the past year and some local businessmen want to know why.
The national economy could be to blame, but Greater Starkville Development Partnership President and Chief Executive Officer Jon Maynard said he plans to contact the State Tax Commission to see if the low tax totals might be inaccurate. The state sends the city''s 2 percent hotel tax revenues back to City Hall, where Starkville officials then distribute the money to the Visitors and Convention Council. The Visitors and Convention Council oversees the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
From October 2007 to March 2008, hotel tax revenues totaled $53,262.28, according to city records. By comparison, from October 2008 to March 2009, hotel tax revenues totaled $27,891.99.
The Visitors and Convention Council receives the revenues roughly two months after they are collected, so the most recent figures count hotel taxes collected from August 2008 to January 2009.
With hotel tax revenues down more than $25,000 compared to this time last year, city tourism officials are searching for answers.
"The hotel numbers definitely are a little concerning," CVB board of directors Chairman Michelle Jones said.
Maynard said an accounting error could be to blame for the low totals. After all, the nationwide recession hasn''t hit Starkville nearly as hard as it has hit other cities. Being a college town, some city officials and businessmen have called Starkville "recession-proof."
Maynard doesn''t believe the city''s economy is sputtering as much as the hotel tax revenues, if accurate, might suggest.
"The hotel tax is not indicative of our economy," Maynard said. "It''s an indication of someone else''s economy. People from Starkville don''t stay in our hotels. It''s people coming from elsewhere."
The data also doesn''t take into account tax revenues from the new Hilton Garden Inn on Highway 12, which just opened in February, or the Microtel on Highway 182, so the low numbers could be a bit skewed, Maynard said.
Chip Carley, manager of the Holiday Inn Express on Highway 12, said he has seen a drop in hotel occupancy, but a rate increase has caused his revenues to be higher now than they were at this time last year, he said.
Some hotels might have dropped rates to attract more customers, Carley said, which also could be a reason the tax revenues are down.
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