News

Scaled-down Chamber will seek visitor funds

City considers administering hotel-motel tax
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor

Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, which will administer Rockdale’s hotel-motel tax only four more weeks, will now apply for some of the funds it used to control.

Debra Jackson, Chamber president, told The Reporter this week she plans to request hotel-motel tax funds from the city, enabling the Chamber to keep its rock house headquarters open and hire one staffer.

But Jackson said a “scaled down” Chamber does not plan to hire a new president. That office has been vacant since Deedra Jacob resigned in October.

The Rockdale City Council met in workshop session Monday at City Hall to start the process of administering the hotel-motel tax, which the city will control after Jan. 1.

The city has expressed interest in coming up with an application procedure to enable events such as the Tejas Fest, Milam County Barbecue Cookoff and Central Texas Outdoor Expo to continue.

VISITOR CENTER—Jackson said the Chamber, which has 332 members and has been operating in Rockdale for 60 years, wants to keep its office open as a visitor center to promote tourism for the benefit of Rockdale businesses.

“We have a great location and people stop in as they’re driving through,” she said. “For some, this is their first real contact with Rockdale and what we have to offer.”

Jackson said the Chamber will also seek funds to maintain its website, www.rockdalechamber.com.

“We believe a website plays a key role in promoting Rockdale and its events,” she said. “We can continue to promote the events, even though the Chamber won’t be running them.”

Jackson said she believes an application from a private citizen will be forthcoming to continue the Tejas Fest, which is held each spring.

PROCEDURE—Last month, alluding to ongoing negotiations between the city and Chamber over the long-standing hotel-motel tax administration agreement, the Chamber board of directors unanimously passed a resolution not to administer the tax in 2013.

Monday’s city council workshop marked the first move by the city toward forming a procedure for administering the tax, which was recently returned from 5.5 percent to 7 percent by council action, reversing a previous decision.

A number of Rockdale hotel-motel managers attended the workshop. Joan Ratliff of Rainbow Courts suggested that hoteliers be a part of any board or council charged with administering the hotel-motel tax.

City Manager Kelvin Knauf said he would contact motel managers.

Knauf made a presentation to the council, noting that any use of hotel-motel funds must attract tourism to justify use of such funds.

Justin Brasiel of the Texas Hotel & Lodging Association noted that the council must decide who would handle the “Rockdale brand” from the perspective of tourism.

Also during Monday’s workshop session, the council discussed working toward a tax abate policy and procedure.

County Judge Dave Barkemeyer has asked that cities work with the county in forming a coordinated tax abate policy to help attract businesses.

No action can be taken in workshop sessions.

The council’s next meeting is the regular monthly session scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.


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