Occupancy tax revenues rise nearly $25,000

Published 8:19 pm Monday, October 17, 2016

Washington’s 6-percent occupancy tax generated gross revenue of $247,187 in fiscal year 2014-2015, according to the N.C. Department off Commerce.

That revenue is nearly $25,000 more than generated in the fiscal year 2013-2014, an 11.24-percent increase over the $222,208 generated in that fiscal year. The city realized $209,346 in gross revenue from the occupancy tax in fiscal year 2012-2013.

For every $100 spent on lodging such as hotel and motel rooms, the city collects $6 in taxes.

“Our occupancy-tax collections were up. I think what we are starting to see is a trend to back where we were prior to ’08 and ’09,” said Lynn Wingate, Washington’s tourism-development director. “We are starting to see that upswing. We have started to focus more of our marketing on targeted areas within North Carolina. We’ve also gotten some great press thanks to our friends at Moss Landing. Some of our partner efforts … have helped us a lot, too.”

Wingate said occupancy-tax collections don’t play a key role in the area’s economic development, but are important when it comes to helping pay for promoting Washington and surrounding areas.

“The occupancy-tax collections are not a true reflection of the economic impact of tourism in our community just because our hotel cycles are driven by so many different things. Just like this last week we’ve had a busy week, but … it was all driven by the storm,” Wingate said.
Of the $247,187, the Washington Tourism Development Authority received $239,771, with the City of Washington taking the remaining $7,416. The city receives 3 percent of the occupancy-tax revenue for providing administrative support to WTDA, which receives the balance of revenue. Of the $222,208 in gross revenue generated in fiscal year 2014, WTDA received $215,542, and the city received $6,666, according to information gathered by Matt Rauschenbach, the city’s administrative services director and chief financial officer.

Beaufort County has no occupancy tax. Some people may pay two occupancy taxes — one collected by a county and the other collected by a municipality — while staying at a hotel or other lodging establishments. There are 96 cities, towns and villages in North Carolina that are enabled to receive revenue from occupancy taxes.

Of that number, 16 do not currently do so, according to a report by the Magellan Strategy Group. Eighty-one counties of the state’s 100 counties impose a countywide occupancy tax. Nine of the state’s 100 counties (nor the municipalities in those nine counties) do not charge an occupancy tax. Two counties have the power to impose such a tax but are not doing so.

A significant amount of occupancy-tax revenues are used to fund programs and projects intended to bring more people for overnight stays to areas served by agencies like the WTDA. The WTDA allocates two-thirds of its annual revenue to promote travel and tourism and the remaining third on tourism-related expenditures.

None of the revenue generated by occupancy taxes goes to the state’s coffers.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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