Dec. 13 is last lodging tax increase Q&A

By Melanie LeCroy / melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/8/21

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft gave a presentation regarding the proposed lodging tax increase to a full house Nov. 29. During the presentation Craft spoke of three options to raise the additional $7 …

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Dec. 13 is last lodging tax increase Q&A

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Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft gave a presentation regarding the proposed lodging tax increase to a full house Nov. 29. During the presentation Craft spoke of three options to raise the additional $7 million a year the city needs for what leaders consider top priority capital projects.

The three options considered by Craft, the council and city staff were: an increase in sales tax, an increase on property tax or a 3% increase in lodging tax. Of the three options, the lodging tax increase is the only option that does not put the financial burden on the residents of Gulf Shores.

The current lodging tax in Gulf Shores is 7% which is combined with a county lodging tax of 2% and state lodging tax of 4% for an overall rate of 13%. The proposed 3% increase would bump the municipal lodging tax to 10% bringing the new lodging tax up to 16%.

Several residents and business owners took the opportunity to express their concerns during the open comment portion of the specially called council meeting. The majority of those who spoke either own rental properties or own vacation rental companies. They all expressed concern over visitors choosing other locations due to the increase in cost, the potential issue with asking existing reservations for more money after they have already booked for 2022 and businesses shouldering more costs to collect the city’s revenue.

Leonard Kaiser with Kaiser Vacation rentals and Geoff Gaberino of Gulf Shores Vacation Rentals were two business owners who spoke to the council.

“There has been a lot of reservations already made and taxes paid. We’ve got to go back to those people. The last time you did this in 2018, a lot of businesses had to come out of their pocket and pay the additional taxes,” Kaiser said.

Gaberino asked the council if the tax could be phased in a little slower and gave the suggestion of 1% per year increase over a couple of years.

“The state of Alabama and the county will give me a 2% discount for collecting the tax which helps offset the credit card fee. Based on this year, it is going to cost me $3,000 more out of my pocket just to collect that tax to give to you. I already have reservations on the book for next year and to put this tax into place now or in June is going to affect us quite a bit,” Geberino said.

One resident spoke in favor of the lodging tax increase. Robert Schwartz who lives off Windmill Ridge Road asked the council to pass the tax.

“The other options are sales taxes and property and I don’t want those to increase. I feel these extra services are for our guests and I personally don’t want to subsidize some landlord’s income by paying more in sales tax or property tax.

Gulf Shores residents will have one last opportunity to voice concerns or ask questions regarding the 3% lodging tax increase at the final Gulf Shores City Council meeting for the year on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. The city council meetings are located at Gulf Shores City Hall, 1905 West First Street, Gulf Shores. The city council meetings are live streamed on Facebook.

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