BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Sullivan County commissioners approved a resolution to implement a new hotel/motel tax to fund local tourism efforts.
Commissioners voted 17–6 Thursday night to levy a lodging tax of 4% within the unincorporated parts of Sullivan County and Bluff City, 3% within the city of Bristol, and 1% within the cities of Kingsport and Johnson City.
The county tax will be on top of each city’s hotel/motel tax. Kingsport’s tax rate is 7%, Bristol’s is 5%, and Johnson City’s is 7%.
That means the combined tax rate will be 8% in the cities and 4% in the unincorporated part of the county.
According to the resolution, Sullivan is among only eight counties in the state without a county hotel/motel tax.
The resolution’s sponsor, Commissioner Zane Vanover, said a county hotel/motel tax would generate new revenue without burdening property owners.
“It’s easy to take the easy path and keep raising property taxes, but I hope we can look at other paths, be proactive, and do some things like this to try to ease those burdens on the same people who get burdened over, and over, and over again,” Vanover said.
Ramona Jackson, general manager of MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport, urged commissioners to find another source of revenue besides a hotel/motel tax.
“The increase will hurt MeadowView. The increase will hurt our local businesses,” Jackson said. “And most importantly, it will hurt my employees.”
Jackson said the negative effects of the tax would be in addition to those created by inflation.
Bristol City Councilmember Lea Powers asked the commission to come up with a specific plan on how the tax revenue will be spent before passing it.
“Tourism is our second largest industry in the state of Tennessee,” Powers said. “It deserves the time and attention and collaboration for us to truly do this right.”
State law requires that lodging tax revenue be used for “the promotion of tourism and tourism development.”
Sullivan County tourism director Matthew Johnson said the revenue would have a positive impact across the county.
“The revenue would be used by my department and others,” Johnson said. “Should this happen, it is the tide that I believe would raise all ships.”
The new tax will go into effect on July 1.