Operations spending keeps pace in hospitality tax discussion

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comFebruary 21, 2014 

— York County Council last week passed first reading on an ordinance to set a new limit on how much hospitality tax revenue will go toward operations and maintenance.

The ordinance – by title only, meaning details need to be written before the second or third reading – states it would increase operation and maintenance costs from a 20 percent cap to 50 percent, matching a change to state law.

“Because it says 50 percent does not mean we have to spend 50 percent,” said Councilman Chad Williams.

Williams said it “might not be a bad idea” to hold off on the operation and maintenance ordinance until after Council sets the new h-tax committee structure. Williams says discussing the two items together could create confusion.

“Both of them are important,” he said. “I don’t want to take time from either one of them by trying to rush either one of them through.”

Councilmen Britt Blackwell and Michael Johnson support discussing both issues in a workshop.

Johnson said the operations ordinance could help set a figure the Council wants.

“Hopefully, we can walk out of that meeting with something we really want,” he said.

The operations and maintenance figure has been a contentious one, with some Council members wanting no change or even reducing the 20 percent.

“In my feeling, that’s what was under the referendum when we voted on it to begin with,” said Councilman Joe Cox, the lone vote against first reading on the operations ordinance.

Cox said he isn’t in favor of spending more h-tax money – charged in unincorporated areas of the county – to benefit municipalities that have their own similar tax.

“I’m almost at the point to relinquish this tax back to the people and say we’re not going to do it anymore,” he said. “Because what’s come of this has been ridiculous.”

Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents Clover and Lake Wylie, is pleased it’s being discussed. Lake Wylie is one of the unincorporated areas where the tax is collected.

“At least this is moving forward and heading in the right direction,” said Henderson.

Henderson said he may not agree with the figures in the title-only ordinance, but passing first reading keeps the issue on the table. He hopes deciding on an operations/maintenance figure will help guide the new committee that likely will be formed from the other ordinance.

“Basically, that means we’re going to have to do something with it,” Henderson said.

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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