Henry County Commissioners may hike hotel taxes and impose new transportation fees to raise revenue to pay more competitive salaries for police and other municipal workers.

Henry may hike hotel taxes, add transportation fees to pay workers

In Henry County, it could cost you more to rent a hotel room or operate a big million-square-foot distribution center in the not too distant future.

Eight months after the county completed a compensation study to boost worker pay, commissioners are looking to out-of-town visitors and owners of warehouses to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to keep employee salaries competitive with the rest of metro Atlanta.

The county allocated $4 million from the fiscal 2019 budget to increase salaries, but leaders said they need to find other sources of revenue to make sure the county has the money to pay for the increased compensation.

Commissioner Gary Barham suggested Henry look at imposing or raising a number of utility and impact fees, including those on cable, residential construction and transportation. Henry County has become one of the busiest distribution centers in metro Atlanta with hundreds of trucks traveling on county roads from warehouses owned by companies such as Wayfair and Home Depot.

He also said if Henry increased its hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent, that could raise $200,000 to $300,000 a year, he said.

“As time goes on, we just got to look at ways to create additional revenues,” he said.

Henry is not alone in trying to raise municipal salaries. Leaders of cities and counties across the metro area — including DeKalb, Cobb, Atlanta and Clayton — have conducted compensation studies as low unemployment has made it easier for workers with highly sought skills to job-hop to raise their pay.

But leaders of the county — the second fastest-growing in metro Atlanta — have said they need to catch up because they are no longer the small rural community they were in the past.

Commissioner Bruce Holmes asked if the warehouses could be charged a specific transportation fee that could both raise revenue and be used to pay for the upkeep of county roads.

“We are not getting a return on the investment from all the warehouses that have been setting up in Henry County,” he said. “The semi-trucks are killing our road infrastructure.”

County attorney Patrick Jaugstetter said the best way to do that would be through a transportation impact fee or by creating a tax allocation district around the warehouses that would isolate revenue to be used for a specific purpose.

Commissioner Dee Clemmons said she’s concerned that the new revenue sources may come with restrictions.

Hotel/motel taxes, for example, are restricted to specific uses, such as economic development, hospitality or other areas related to tourism.

“If we increase [hotel/motel taxes], I would like to see an audit first of what kind of stewards we have been of what we’re already collecting,” Clemmons said. “And then it needs to be a dedicated fund. We don’t need to continue to get money and not know where it’s going to go.”

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