- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Galveston County officials want permission to tax hotel customers to cover some of the tourist expenses that local property owners currently shoulder.

County commissioners say a hotel room tax would help with expenses such as the maintenance of Bolivar Peninsula beach and law enforcement in tourist areas.

A tax measure would need approval by lawmakers in Austin.

The state already collects a tax and some Texas cities, including Galveston, have local hotel taxes, but Galveston County isn’t among the 34 Texas counties allowed to impose a hotel tax.

“Our goal is certainly not to increase tax revenue for the county,” Commissioner Ryan Dennard told the Galveston County Daily News in a story published Sunday (https://bit.ly/1wRunpp ). He said the county hopes “to redirect revenue streams already being paid … to the state. So we could get a piece of that to offset our costs.”

Texas Hotel and Lodging Association General Counsel Justin Bragiel said hotel and motel owners weren’t likely to embrace a tax boost. Just a 2 percent bump would give Galveston the highest hotel tax rate on the Texas Gulf Coast - 17 percent. That’s equal to what Houston hotel guests pay and just short of the 17.5 percent rate in El Paso, the state high.

Galveston visitors already pay a 6 percent state sales tax, 7 percent city tax and 2 percent tax for the island’s convention center. Most counties already assessing a county-imposed hotel tax add about 2 percent.

Dennard said he doesn’t want to overburden hotels, but costs are being unfairly applied through property taxes.

“The reality is that right now somebody is paying for these expenses,” he said. “It is good for the county, but I think that in general it’s better to tie government revenue streams to what they will end up paying for.

“Shouldn’t the people who are using those facilities pay for them?”

Figures from 2013 show local tax revenue brought nearly $24 million to the county.

Bragiel said most of the hotel tax revenues to the county will come from property taxes.

“The busier the hotel is, the more it is worth,” he said. “The more it’s worth, the more it pays in property taxes. So if occupancy taxes bring a business decline, then the county loses.”

He also warned Galveston’s convention industry could take a hit if taxes are raised.

“Meeting planners are notoriously sensitive to price and they pit communities against each other,” Bragiel said. “So you may be competing with Corpus Christi, Louisiana, Florida; all those areas would have a lower hotel tax rate so that can be the issue.”


Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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