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Florence Councilman: City Gets Short End of Stick with Proposed Hotel Tax Increase

Plans to increase the transient room (hotel) tax by 1 percent in Northern Kentucky was decried at Tuesday night's Florence City Council meeting.
Councilman Mel Carroll argued that the proposal - pushed by the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau (meetNKY) to help fund an expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center - disproportionately affects Florence.
"We have a significant number of hotels in Florence," said Carroll. "That tax is supposed to go to support the Convention Center in Covington. Now, I am all in favor of Northern Kentucky, but I believe we're getting the short end of the stick on this proposal."
The proposed increase requires approval from the Fiscal Courts of Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties and is expected to pass.
Mayor Diane Whalen said that she had met with Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore and discussed this very matter. 
Carroll said that if there is going to be a bed tax, it should benefit the city it is in.
"We have a need for a conference center in Florence," Carroll stated later. "We have several locations in Florence that would work quite well. It is always easy to tax someone else for services. I will say that to tax visitors who have no say in the matter is a form of taxation without representation."
Eric Summe, president and CEO of meetNKY, responded in a statement to The River City News. "It is important to remember that the hotel tax benefits all of Northern Kentucky by promoting the region as a tourism destination," Summe said. "Florence in particular enjoys a tremendous benefit because so many of the visitors to the region stay in Florence, shop at the Florence Mall and at other retailers, eat at Florence restaurants and more. The proposed 1 percent increase in the tax will initially be dedicated to the expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, but that too benefits Florence because so many of the groups that book the convention center visit Florence while they are here." 
Other notes:
Mayor Whalen read a lengthy ordinance spelling out the reinstitution of a telecommunications ordinance, since the previous one had expired. The rules show a $15,000 occupational license type fee for the first year and annual increases. The ordinance creates and establishes for bid a non-exclusive telecommunications (or related non-cable) franchise for the placement of facilities for the generation, transmission, distribution or sale of telecommunications within the public rights of way in the city of Florence for a ten-year duration. Any fees associated with this ordinance do not go to the city, according to Whalen, although cities used to be able to benefit from the fees. Now the fees predominantly go to the state. This was the second reading.
Mayor Whalen announced that the new city administrator, Alex Mattingly, would start on January 18. He is joining the city from Elsmere. She also told council that the city's annual Martin Luther King celebration would start at 3 p.m. at the city building. Aquatic Center memberships are on sale at this time for those who can imagine summer days and swimming pools. 
Whalen also offered the city's condolences to the families of Bob Williams, a World War II paratrooper who always shared the golf cart with Whalen for parades, who recently died, as well as Bob Webster, who served on council, and was also the public works director, who died over the weekend.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
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