Will the third time be a charm?
Although no time frame has been set, possibly enacting a Hotel/Motel tax likely looks to be taken up again in the near future by the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The Town’s Tourism/Visitor Advisory committee voted to recommend BOMA consider the issue during its regular bi-monthly meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10.
If the tax does come to a vote, it would be the third time in six years BOMA has considered the measure, which would not tax hotels and motels, but instead would tax guests staying at any of Farragut’s current lodging establishments.
Presently, there is an across -the-board 5 percent Knox County lodging tax charged to those staying in Farragut hotels, while the City of Knoxville charges an additional 3 percent for guests staying in the city limits.
Farragut is one of few incorporated entities that does not assess additional lodging taxes on top of the county rates, according to documents shared during the Tourism/Visitor Advisory meeting.
The neighboring counties of Roane, Anderson, Blount and Loudon also charge a 5 percent county lodging tax. Incorporated cities Lenoir City and Kingston charge 5 percent, as does Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs, while Harriman imposes a 7 percent tax.
All lodging taxes mentioned are in addition to the state’s 7 percent sales tax rate, and in Knox County an additional 2.25 percent sales tax also is charged.
Committee chairman Michael Bellamy presented a memorandum to the group during its Sept. 10 meeting, outlining reasons to support pursuing a tax stream similar to those already established by other municipalities.
In the memo, he noted Town Tourism coordinator Karen Tindal has “increased tourism in Farragut by focusing on music and songwriting venues. All of her accomplishments, however, have occurred with a very small budget and part-time hours.”
Tindal has worked to publicize and promote a variety of events during her 18 months in what was a newly created position for the Town. She also has established a strong and separate “Visit Farragut” social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. Earlier this year, she also began posting weekly video summaries of activities and events.
The Committee has been working with local marketing firm designsensory to help establish goals and plans for the future of Farragut’s tourism.
The firm has made presentations to both the Committee and BOMA, outlining some of the plans, along with potential costs, over the last several months.
The Committee took up the issue in two separate votes. In the first, it voted unanimously to suggest BOMA consider the Hotel/Motel tax again, which was voted down most recently in 2018.
However, the Committee was divided on the percentage of the tax to be considered.
Bellamy suggested 3 percent. Vice Mayor Louise Povlin asked the Committee to consider requesting less, but the measure ultimately passed 4-3, with Bellamy, Wendy Robinson, Alderman Ron Pinchok and Angela Sanders voting for, while Jeanie Stow, Akshay Hira and Julie Blaylock, Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce President/CEO. voted against the recommendation.
If and when the issue comes before BOMA, that body will decide on the amount. In order to pass, four of five Board members must vote in favor of the measure.