Canton moves to support occupancy tax hike
CANTON — Canton is officially on board with Haywood County Tourism and Development Authority’s proposed 2 percent occupancy tax hike.
The vote to support the tax hike was preceded by a short spiel from TDA Executive Director Lynn Collins, during which she went into great detail to explain — and sell — the initiative.
The decision was made with unanimous approval of the three aldermen in attendance.
“I had expected it to be 100 percent support,” Mayor Mike Ray said later.
Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss also said he expected the proposal to encounter little to no resistance.
“I had spoken with each board member to get a sense of where they stood and they all expressed a positive interest in this,” he said.
The only alderman not present, Zeb Smathers, said later in a telephone interview that he was happy with the decision.
“I support it,” he said. “I’m glad they supported it, and I’m not surprised.”
The proposal being presented to all municipalities in the county asks the N.C. General Assembly to increase Haywood's occupancy tax from its current 4 percent to the allowable 6 percent, as many other counties in the region have done.
There were few questions from the board or the public, and the ones asked were simply clarifications which were answered satisfactorily.
Along with the board, Ray voiced his approval for the occupancy tax hike, especially with regard to the money that will be put back into the communities which generate the tourism proportionally, something he said many local officials wished they had seen the last time the TDA tried to push the hike through.
“I think we solved some of the problems that have held it up before,” he said.
Hendler-Voss echoed Ray’s feelings.
“TDA did a sound job of listening to the concerns some people had,” he said.
Ray didn’t have any capital improvement projects in mind that the extra money generated could go toward, but Hendler-Voss had a couple ideas. Although both he and Ray said there would be much discussion prior to any decisions being made, off the top of his head, he mentioned Sorrells Street Park, a new greenway and river recreation opportunities as being potential options.
“The board will definitely be identifying some capital improvement projects at [next week’s] retreat,” he said.
If the other municipalities and the community at large come to support the tax hike unanimously, as Canton’s Board of Aldermen did, the last step will be for legislators Jim Davis, Michele Presnell and Mike Clampitt to introduce the tax hike in Raleigh.
“No matter what we do it will come down to their willingness to listen to local officials,” Smathers said. “Are they willing to introduce this?”