On Monday, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave final reading approval to a new 2.5 percent tax on hotel and motel accommodations from which all revenues are to be designated for tourism development.
Effective July 1, the tax will be added to an existing 5 percent county levy on hotel/motel accommodations, bringing the total tax on an overnight room rentals in Erwin to 7.5 percent.
The town’s initial proposal to up the tax by 5 percent was rejected by the state comptroller earlier this year in light of the existing county tax.
The new town tax was specifically recommended in a strategic tourism development plan for Unicoi County completed last year with grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development and state Department of Tourism.
Formulated by the consulting firm ChandlerThinks after a months-long study of the county’s tourism assets and revenues, the plan further called for the allocation of 50 percent of the hotel/motel tax collections for a new tourism development office.
Acting on that initiative, the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County is working to create a tourism department within its corporate structure at an annual cost of $49,500 to be paid with 75 percent of the county’s total hotel/motel tax revenues and 60 percent of its river rafting excise fees.
The strategic tourism plan also recommends the placement of way-finding signs for tourists that have since been funded by the town and are expected to be put in place early this summer.
In other business Monday, the board approved a continuing budget resolution authorizing departmental funding at 2018-19 budget levels beyond the July 1 start of the new budget year and until a new 2019-20 budget is adopted.
And in a matter of housekeeping, the board approved a resolution that retroactively authorized a previous $25,286 capital outlay for the purchase of easements for the Erwin Linear Trail extension to Fishery Park.
A $5,000 grant match expenditure for a preliminary study of a mountain bike park in Erwin to be built with a $30,000 grant from the International Mountain Bike Association was removed from the board’s agenda after it was learned the matching grant funds will be paid by the economic board.