One month after placing a moratorium on the collection of its lodging tax, Hillsboro City Council on Monday voted unanimously to lift the moratorium and resume the tax collection on local motels.
Last month, council voted unanimously to impose the moratorium on the tax after Lee Koogler, president of council, said that an opinion expressed by state Auditor Dave Yost in an audit of the Highland County Convention and Visitors Bureau said that under state law Hillsboro should not be collecting a lodging tax because Highland County also collects such a tax, and the county’s was enacted first.
The tax, or fee, impacts three motels and results in about $30,000 a year in revenue.
Koogler told council that he had spoken with Fred Beery, the law director, who was not present at last month’s meeting but who Koogler said had suggested that placing a moratorium on the tax was one option while the issue was investigated further. Council then voted to impose the moratorium.
Beery later told The Times-Gazette that Yost’s view of the tax was “a passing comment in an auditor’s opinion” on another entity, and no one from the state has told the city that the tax is improper.
Yost’s most recent audit of the city itself made no mention of a problem with the lodging tax, according to Gary Lewis, the city auditor.
On Monday, after acting council president Dick Donley raised the issue under new business, council member Ann Morris made a motion to lift the moratorium.
Council member Justin Harsha asked Beery for his opinion, with Beery responding that after reviewing the law and his own position on the subject, “I don’t see anything has changed on that.” He added, “I don’t see a valid concern.”
Beery said that if council determined that the tax is inappropriate it should repeal it rather than continue the moratorium. Council then voted 5-0 to lift the moratorium and resume the collection of the fee, with Morris, Harsha, Donley, Rebecca Wilkin and Tracy Aranyos all voting in favor. Koogler and council members Bill Alexander and Claudia Klein were absent Monday.
Beery’s position has been that the city is collecting a service fee, not a tax, and the county’s tax and the city’s fee can legally coexist.
The city’s lodging tax was enacted in 2005. Currently, only three motels are subject to the tax, which brought in $29,469 last year, according to Lewis.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.