LUMBERTON — County Commissioner Roger Oxendine says it’s time that the county financially benefit from travelers who spend nights in Robeson County hotels, but at least one representative of the tourism industry isn’t so sure.
On Monday, Oxendine asked fellow commissioner to consider placing a countywide occupancy tax on hotels as a way of generating a little additional revenue.
“Other counties tax those who stay in their hotels,” he said. “Even if it is just a dollar a room it would generate a little revenue. It’s time that those who are traveling up and down our highways help reduce the tax burden on our property owners.”
Occupancy taxes, applied to the cost of a hotel room, have required approval from the state General Assembly since 1983. The tax can be implemented by just a county, just a municipality, or both. They are usually directly distributed by a tourism authority or the governing body of a county or municipality in which the tax revenue is generated.
Occupancy taxes are usually applied to any lodging property that also pays sales tax, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, condominiums, and homes that are rented over short-term periods. They are not applied to religious conference centers, colleges and universities, campgrounds and RV parks.
Although it varies by county and community, a percentage of occupancy taxes are required to be used for local tourism promotion and tourist related activities.
According to the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, four municipalities in Robeson County currently charge an occupancy tax. These include: Lumberton, 6 percent of the cost of the room; Pembroke, 3 percent; Rowland, 2 percent; and St. Pauls, 6 percent. Adjacent Cumberland County, which includes Fayetteville, has an occupancy tax of 6 percent.
The commissioners took no action on Oxendine’s request except to forward it to the county attorney and county administration for research.
“I think it’s a super idea,” said Jerry Stephens, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. “I think it’s something we should look into. It’s something some of our cities already do.”
Commissioner Tom Taylor said he thinks the idea of letting visitors to the county help pay to maintain services and infrastructure is an idea that needs to be researched.
“All people should help pay for the the things we have to offer,” Taylor said. “Anything that can help lower the cost to our property owners is worth looking into.”
Pramit Patel, who has owned the Best Western in Lumberton for 16 years and is a co-owner of the newly constructed Springhill Suites in Lumberton, said that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for the county to implement another tax on those who utilize local hotels and other forms of local lodging.
“I think we are already maxed out with lodging taxes for the size of our market,” he said. “Total taxes charged in Lumberton to someone staying at a hotel is now 13 percent. This includes the city’s 6 percent occupancy tax, and 7 percent sales tax. Of this total, the county already gets 2.25 percent.”
According to Patel, Lumberton already charges about the same in total taxes to those staying in local hotels as those staying in hotels in New York City.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.