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Mornings unPHILtered - Councilman Will Britt talks taxes and budget
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    There's one subject that's always likely to cause a lot of discussion: taxes. That's what was on the “Mornings unPHILtered” show's agenda today with Statesboro City Councilman Will Britt sitting in.   
    Britt talked about how the city council will likely pass a resolution at a specially called meeting this afternoon to raise the Hotel Motel Tax up to six percent from the current five percent rate. The state allows for a maximum of eight percent up for the hotel/motel tax and stipulates for what the money can be used. This tax would provide the city with more tax revenue from its hotel and motel rooms, and would allow more money to go to the agency that promotes the city's tourism.
    The special called council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on the second floor of city hall.
    During the interview, a caller suggested giving a tax credit to hotel and motel owners to encourage more people would stay in hotel motel rooms, thereby generating more revenue. Both show host Phil Boyum and Britt expressed their doubts that a tax credit on hotel motel taxes would raise more revenue without creating and supporting more events that would encouraging additional  people to stay overnight in the city.
    Britt said this user taxes such as that levied on hotel and motel rooms is the one type of tax he most prefers to consider raising when it has to be done at all.
    Once passed, this proposal would then be sent to Representative Bob Lane, who would introduce this local legislation for approval by the Georgia legislature. The city had passed a resolution at a specially called meeting last week, but the state's legislative counsel suggested some minor wording changes to ensure its passage in Atlanta.
    Currently, there are three city agencies funded by the hotel/motel tax: the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Averitt Art Center for the Arts and the Statesboro Downtown Development Authority. Britt said the addition revenues raised by the one percent increase in the hotel/motel tax would go to fund both the Averitt Center and the DDA, which would reduce the need for the city to fund these entities from the city's general fund.
    Boyum asked the councilman if there wasn't a way to assist the downtown merchants with tax abatements or a sales tax holiday especially while the Downtown Streetscape Project is underway since the project has reduced the foot traffic to these businesses.
    Britt said the council has discussed ways to re-energize the downtown area once the project is completed. Britt also added while speaking to Georgia Southern fraternities, sororities and other student organizations he has sought input from these groups about how to bring more students and student activities into the downtown area. He said this is something the council will focus on more intently when the students return for the fall semester.
    Boyum the asked about the city's budget and if the councilman had concerns about the 2010 city budget considering that property valuations around the city will likely fall after this year's assessment by the tax office. Britt said the council is looking at numerous ways to trim the budget - including energy usage, fuel costs and office expenses - adding that while each savings may be small on its own, the cumulative effect can make a significant impact on the city's budget.
    Along those lines, another caller questioned why the city no longer sends out bills on postcards and instead sends out full-sized paper bills with an accompanying empty envelope. Britt responded that he has wondered that himself and that the council is looking at more avenues for moving the city towards paperless billing and communication.
    Boyum gave Britt an example of how things could be changed, using the example of planting of the medians near the Triangle Park and on South Main at the Brannen Street intersection with perennials instead of having to replant them with annuals every couple months. With the current economy, Britt said he is welcome to any suggestion that could trim money from the city's budget while still retaining jobs and maintaining the level of city service.
     “Mornings unPHILtered” airs live Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on StatesboroHerald.com and also simulcast at WWNS-AM 1240 on the radio. You also can listen to the archives anytime at BoroLive.com or in the Multimedia section of StatesboroHerald.com