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McDuffie County Commission makes changes to hotel tax guidelines

McDuffie County Commissioners now have some teeth. They can deal with hotels and motels delinquent on tax payments, that is.

Over the past two years, the county has been bitten while dealing with several local hotels that neglect to pay their room taxes. After a review of the ordinance dealing with that matter, officials decided it was time to bite back.

During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners held a public hearing on an updated ordinance and voted to adopt the new guidelines that mirror Georgia law.

"It gives us a little bit more ability to fine people that are not paying, but mainly, it makes sure that our ordinance reflects what state law says," said County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton.

According to McDuffie County Manager Don Norton, the 20-year-old ordinance was "way out of date" and lacked detail.

"We wanted to take the opportunity to update the ordinance," Mr. Norton said, "...and, obviously, to get in complete compliance with state law. The tax itself is not changing. It's just a much more thorough ordinance."

With a penalty of $100 per day encouraging the hotels to pay their share on time, the new ordinance should alleviate much collection work from the shoulders of County Finance Officer Jimmy Whitaker.

Chairman Newton added that the recent addition of business licenses have given the county another avenue to pursue delinquent hotels. The county can also pull the license of a hotel delinquent on its taxes.

Back in November of 2005, a previous owner of the Holiday Inn Express near I-20 had missed paying several months in a row of the taxes. Since then, officials had been researching ways to alleviate the problem.

Commissioners hired a consultant through the Georgia Municipal Association to give suggestions. The new ordinance, the result of those suggestions, will take effect on July 1.

Web posted on Thursday, May 17, 2007

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