Southside Monroe hotel tax vote sparks debate

MONROE, La. - "That's unfair that is totally unfair. If we have to pay a tax why shouldn't all of the rest of the hotels pay a tax," said Studio 6 housekeeper, Kieachia Holcom.

The proposed hotel occupancy tax introduced by the Southside Economic Development District has sparked mixed emotions. 
Some saying it could possibly hurt the community, while others feel it is a chance for growth. 

"I think this is profitable experience for our community. And it should be done for our community," said Southside resident Alfred Rayford. 

He has lived in the area for nearly two decades and works with the Southside Community Involvement Association. 

Mayor Mayo says he fully supports the new 30-year tax.  He believes it will spur business growth and encourage new infrastructure

"We know that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to be made if you have a revenue stream for the Southside Economic Development District." said Mayor Jamie Mayo.

However, State Representative Marcus Hunter, who serves the district says he is not sold on the plan. 

"I would feel more comfortable if this were a city-wide or parish-wide hotel tax," said Hunter.  

The tax is expected to earn the Southside an estimated $141,619  each year until 2047, but that's money Hunter says is not guaranteed. 

"It taxes an underserved area at a higher rate than other hotels in the other more flourishing parts of town. In the hopes that this is going to generate revenue and by all economic forecast that is not going to occur," said Rep. Hunter. 

At $45 a night, Studio 6 has the lowest rate of the string of hotels along Highway 165. 
The owner, Rajesh Patel, tells me if the tax is approved it will hurt his business. 
He could be forced to raise prices to keep his heads above water or even worse fire a few of his loyal employees. 

"Now increase the tax, so i be too much suffering for my payments and bills and taking from my employees everybody suffering from my business and family too," said a frustrated Patel.

The Southside Economic Delevopment District declined an on-camera interview, but did send the following statement via email: 

Thanks Bria, 

Currently all money collected by the present hotel tax of 4% is collected from Monroe hotels and sent to West Monroe to the visitors and tourism board, we are excited that the money we collect will stay in Monroe and more particular south Monroe. 

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