City councilmember floats idea of using tourism tax revenue for other things

CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte city council member talked about using the tourism tax on other things, such as roads and infrastructure.

However, there is no ambiguity regarding the allocation of the tax revenue.

In Charlotte, tourism taxes must be used for tourism purposes.

Those are the taxes paid at hotels or on prepared food and beverages.

Last week, Councilmember Renee Johnson, D-District 4, floated the idea of putting those taxes toward infrastructure.

The tourism industry did not like that idea and now the mayor is taking a firm stance against it.

“I would like to take a look at that if that is a possibility,” Johnson said during a meeting earlier this month.

Johnson told the Economic Development Committee she wants to explore flexibility for spending the city’s hospitality funds.

She cited Asheville’s use of the funds for greenways and infrastructure.

“It is worth talking about, a different way of looking at things,” Johnson.

“I just think that is a terrible idea,” said Councilmember Malcolm Graham, D-District 2.

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association agrees with Councilman Malcolm Graham.

The association sent a letter to the city this week saying that “taxes should not be used for general fund expenses or things used primarily by the community at large or other businesses ... If tourism promotion is no longer needed and the tax has met its goals, the tax should be lowered or eliminated.”

Mayor Vi Lyles was quick to respond to the organization and try to put out the fire writing “The conversation you referenced in your April 8 letter was just that -- a conversation. It does not question or indicate any change in city policy … The City of Charlotte does not intend to change how we utilize funds generated by hospitality taxes or work with our hospitality industry.”

During last week’s meeting, Graham warned other council members about going down this road.

“I am not even sure if it is a conversation,” he said. “We can certainly talk about anything. It is just, I am not on board with even talking about that.”

All of this comes on the heels of a lawsuit involving Currituck County on the coast. The county is tied up in litigation for using occupancy taxes for emergency services.

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