South Fulton seeks hotel-motel tax increase

Roswell is seeking permission from the state Legislature to raise its hotel/motel excise tax to 8 percent from 6 percent. AJC FILE
Roswell is seeking permission from the state Legislature to raise its hotel/motel excise tax to 8 percent from 6 percent. AJC FILE

South Fulton officials say they want to fund improvements to recreation space by increasing how much it taxes every stay in a hotel or motel.

The City Council recently approved a measure to ask the Georgia General Assembly to increase the city’s hotel-motel tax to the maximum rate allowed, which is 8 percent. State law governs hotel-motel taxes, so any adjustment must be authorized by legislators.

City Manager Odie Donald said Tuesday that Fulton County had been taxing the area at 7 percent, but law required the rate be lowered to 5 percent when the city became its own municipality in May 2017.

“We are collecting less revenue than the county did, although as a city our needs are probably greater,” Donald said.

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Donald said the increased revenue would fund more activities at the South Fulton Tennis Center. He described the center as an early jewel of the city, and said any improvements would be akin to an investment.

“If we get the tennis center hopping a bit and get one (large) event, then those hotels in the city” would bring in even more money, he said.

Frank Milazi, the city’s chief financial officer, said monthly revenue would be about $20,000 with the increased rate. He said those figures take into account seasonality and the two hotels expected to open soon. Currently, South Fulton has only one hotel.

More taxes will be collected if the young city acquires the 7.5 square miles of commercial and industrial land known as Fulton Industrial. It is the last part of unincorporated Fulton County, and Atlanta is fighting to get the land, but taxing that area's hotels and motels would be a substantial boost for tiny South Fulton.

“It could have an impact of $100,000 annually,” Donald estimated.

Roswell is also working this legislative session to increase its hotel-motel tax to the 8 percent limit. Alpharetta, Atlanta, Cobb County, Dunwoody, Gwinnett County, Marietta and Woodstock are all at 8 percent. Johns Creek and Sandy Springs are at 7 percent and rural Milton sits at 3 percent.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed data from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs from August 2018 showing the hotel-motel tax rates of 275 municipalities. Seventy-one governments levy an 8 percent tax, 23 use 7 percent, 27 tax hotel stays at 6 percent, 129 collect 5 percent, none use 4 percent, 24 have a 3 percent tax, a single city sits at 2 percent and none have a 1 percent hotel-motel tax.

If the General Assembly approves South Fulton’s higher rate and the governor signs it, the City Council would then have to vote on increasing the tax. Donald said he hopes this can all be done during the current legislative session.

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