The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 15, 2013

Bed tax can bring people, money to county and help us expand

Our Views


TARBORO — The passage of a bed tax for Edgecombe County is, we believe, good news.

While we understand there are those who feel such a tax is a negative and will cause travelers to stay elsewhere.

We say bunk.

If someone is going to stay in a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast in any county surrounding Edgecombe, they are going to pay an occupancy tax. Halifax and Nash levy a 5 percent tax, Martin and Wilson levy a 3 percent tax, and Pitt levies a 6 percent tax.

And likewise, when you’re planning a trip, we’ll bet you don’t look for places with or without bed taxes and plan your trip accordingly. You just go and pay your lodging bill.

The key to the success of this new revenue stream is to not plan how to spend every cent before they are generated.

We’ve already heard the comment, “We can finally hire someone to promote the town,” and, while we realize the four lodging facilities are in Tarboro, it’s not a revenue stream designed to benefit Tarboro, but rather the county.

As Assistant County Manager Erik Evans said for a story in this newspaper, the hiring of a tourism director is a long way off.

That, in part, is because the revenues generated by the tax will be limited. A 2008 North Carolina State University study in 2008 projected that a 3 percent occupancy tax would generate an annual $46,708.32 in revenue, based on 160 rooms in Edgecombe County, an average daily rate of $62 per room and an occupancy rate of 43 percent. The county currently has an estimated 166 rooms, 65 at the Comfort Inn, 62 at the Best Western, 35 at the Budget Inn, and four at the Main Street Inn, all in Tarboro.

As a NC Department of Tourism study showed, i the period from 2006-2012, the average occupancy rate statewide was 44 percent and the average rate was $74.

Based on that, the NC State numbers would seem to be close.

The key for this being a successful effort is the development of a strong Tourism Development Authority (TDA), which is limited by law to nine members — a county commissioner, a town council member, three owners/ operators of motels, hotels or other taxable accommodations in the county, two people involved in the tourist business, one appointed by the board of commissioners and one appointed by the town council, and two people interested in the tourism business, one appointed by the commissioners and one appointed by the town council.

Until the funds start to grow, the TDA can watch over the effort — as that group will be responsible for prudent use of the money as it is. Hiring someone should be well down a future list

The funds can be used to promote the upcoming bluegrass festival, Happening’ on the Common, Easter Classic and even our disc golf, which we certainly hopes comes to pass as it is a revenue generator for many communities.

There are so many things this fund can benefit and, probably, a like number that should be left to fend for themselves.

That would be prudent management.