Bed Tax to Help Bring Convention Center to Marianna?

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Hotel and motel owners are lining-up against a bed tax proposal in Jackson County. The county is considering the tax to help build a new convention center that could help fill those same rooms with customers.

Sid Riley says he is very interested in bringing new visitors to his Marianna bed and breakfast, but he says a new convention center is not the way to do it.

"We think it would become an economic burden to the community. It would be another empty building sitting there most of the time," says Sid.

Riley is not just against the convention center. He's also against a proposal by county leaders to pay for the center's upkeep with a new bed tax. The tax would add two cents to every dollar spent on hotel stays. That's on top of sales tax and an existing two cent bed tax.

Excluding the sales tax, patrons would pay a bed tax total of $2.00 for a $50-a-night room, but Tourist Development Council president Art Kimbrough says the new bed tax will help hotel owners more than it hurts them.

"This conference center will be an attractant to thousands and thousands of people coming here and in turn will fuel growth of additional restaurants and motels and hotels over a period of time," says Art.

Kimbrough says the new tax would show the county's commitment to the project and make it easier to get grants. Hotel owners like Sid Riley are not convinced, but they might have to accept the new tax. County leaders seem poised to pass it soon.

The proposed tax would pay for the maintenance on any new convention center. The county is pursuing grant money to build the facility.

Jackson County commissioners will discuss the bed tax at their next meeting Tuesday morning.