I feel the potential Town of Farragut Hotel-Motel Tax is a common sense choice to support the town’s growth in parks, recreation, stormwater systems and roads.
These investments are expensive to build and to operate over their lifetime.
While Farragut’s current financial position is strong, investments under way or nearly finished, including the new community center and the next phase of McFee Park, will reduce the Town’s savings balance and add significant new operating costs.
In addition, the TN Hall Income tax is phasing out, eliminating approximately $450,000 of Town revenue. Hotel taxes are extremely common and unlikely to have a major impact on hotel selection.
For example, both Knoxville and Lenoir City have hotel taxes of 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
In summary, my view is that it is common sense to tax visitors who expect to pay hotel taxes anyway to help protect Farragut’s long term financial position and operating model.
I would like to share some perspectives and give some updates to the readership about our community.
Per the proposed “Hotel/Motel Tax,” it is disappointing to see the aggressiveness of forcing a TAX which there is NOT 1). an immediate financial need; 2). a “business case,” which the stakeholders support and, 3). a detailed marketing tourism strategy presented publicly to date. Most importantly, to destroy one of our community’s only economic development competitive advantages of NOT having a Hotel/Motel Tax is illogical, and especially when those business owners and their professional association have clearly proven the position (business case) of NOT implementing such a negative tax … (time and time again).
I would hope BOMA understands that perception = reality; and the current reality is that the community as a whole does not support this TAX. The community appreciates much of the recent activities in development and façade upgrades by the private sector in the retail zones within the Town’s limits, but at the same time questions many of the past public financial decisions spent on new amenities, which gives the perception, whether a real or perceived perception, that there are not any logical linear plans or priorities being associated with them. Equally, the public has a perception of past shortfalls of past economic development initiatives (ROI) with third-party investments/partnerships.
In short, the community has the “perception” that the Town of Farragut has been on a spending spree for many years, and now with pending future needs,is wanting to cover the budget with a “Motel/Hotel Tax” and is very skittish of new “marketing” initiatives especially towards “tourism,” which seems to be a stretch with the current assets our community has.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few Civil War, “Thunder Road,” U.S. Navy, and U.S.S. Farragut (past, current and “Trekkies”) evangelists out there in addition to some hockey and soccer families, but the most popular destination in our community that brings in regional economic dollars is the Turkey Creek shopping district based on the research data I collected 10 years ago and shared with the Farragut Economic Development Committee at that time. Passing a “Hotel/Motel Tax” will only negatively impact the hotels/motels as visitors will chose newer hotels along Parkside Drive.
From a political ideological perspective since the Town of Farragut’s elections are non-partisan, traditionally those who would support such a “Hotel/Motel Tax” would be considered Democrat (liberal/socialist) as this clearly is a). PRO-TAX and b). ANTI-BUSINESS initiative just as traditionally those who would be against such a “Hotel/Motel Tax” would be considered Republican (conservative/libertarian) as that traditional philosophy is a). ANTI-TAX and b). PRO-BUSINESS.
I mention this only as Town of Farragut voters need to know this is an election year and two of the BOMA positions will be up for election (currently held by Vice Mayor Louise Povlin and Alderman Drew Burnette). Feb. 3 is the first day to pick up a nominating petition from the Knox County Election Commission and Election Day is Aug. 6.
Per the mention of Design Sensory supporting the Town, I think that is a great idea as they have a fantastic track record in economic development and tourism branding and marketing, and my wife and I personally worked with them as one of their first major clients when they were starting out in the early 2000s. I would like to see the Town outsource public relations to Design Sensory and let them provide public relations training to the Town, as well as this is one of the weakest areas historically of our community from my personal and professional perspectives.
Per former Alderman Bob Markli’s continued involvement in educating our community per the negative effects of taxes, I appreciate his passion and volunteerism and especially his recent public apology during a recent BOMA meeting per his over-enthusiasm in making a communication mistake. Mr. Markli is a national treasure, per his understanding of history and free markets and the community appreciates his continued vigilance on such important matters.
I also appreciate all the volunteer time and commitment from our community’s elected officials, professional staff, board members, students — and especially its citizens. The Town of Farragut is a very unique community and I state this from visiting thousands of communities and working with many public sector entities. The “product life cycle” of our community is shifting from “growing” to “maintaining” as the community is being close to being “built out” and, more than ever, it has competition from the “growing” areas of Hardin Valley, Northshore, Choto and Loudon County.
I mention this as the next 20 years is going to be pivotal in change as the demographics of home ownership throughout the nation is going to transition just as much as the Farragut brand. I would suggest the Town quickly “pivot” to prepare for this coming reality and do so through community benchmarking (BOMA and Town staff goes on fact-finding missions to other communities’), hosting professionals (bring professional associations and other community leaders here) and maintaining/recruiting “best in class” professional staff.
Per another important item, I do want to inform our community that Knox County is having a Charter Review that happens every 10 years. From the 5th district, I have been appointed by our Knox County Commissioner, John Schoonmaker, to serve on the Knox County Charter Review Committee.
I have served on many committees like this before and will leverage my 30-plus years working in public administration just as much as my degrees in public administration (MPA) and political science (BA) and vast knowledge of administrative law on this committee. As reported in other publications and editorials, there seems to be a “stacked deck” of sorts on this committee as many members seem to have plenty of professional conflicts of interest serving on this committee.
As someone who lobbied the State’s Legislature and our local communities to adopt and implement public administration code of ethics and even term-limits, I will be watchful and vigilant of such negative impacts to our County during this process. Likewise, I will fight to preserve the election of all County offices versus any efforts to appoint them, as that is simply a political power grab, and this is currently “rumored” to be on the coming agenda.
With that all being said, I will keep the readership updated on the Knox County Charter Review Committee activities and am open to hearing any ideas and concerns from the 5th District voters.
Lastly, I would like to thank all the elected officials and VIPs for coming out to the Open House for Leilani Johns in December.
I especially would like to thank State Sen, Richard Briggs and Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker for their comments and State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey’s Senate Proclamation in recognition of Leilani being selected to Knoxville’s “20 under 20” for the 2019 class and as its youngest member to date in its program’s history.