SALTILLO • The Board of Aldermen formally set Nov. 5 as the date for a referendum to add a 2 percent sales tax to hotels and restaurants in Saltillo.
During a special called meeting Tuesday, aldermen approved a resolution to establish the tourism tax and set the date for the public referendum.
The state legislature approved a local and private bill last spring allowing the city to ask its voters if they wanted the special tax levy to support tourism and the city parks. At least 60 percent of the voters must approve the measure for it to pass.
Mayor Rex Smith estimates that the special tax could bring as much as $100,000 a year into the city. Officials have not offered specifics about how they would spend the additional income.
“The bill says it has to be spent on tourism and parks and recreation projects,” said city attorney Chris Evans. “That is kind of wide reaching and at the discretion of the board.”
Smith said his administration is making a list of potential projects to present to residents and civic groups. During Tuesday’s board meeting, Smith noted that a splash pad at city park would be a good example of something the tax could be used to fund. The mayor had no time frame for the public presentations.
Officials wanted to tie the referendum to the state general election to improve turnout and save money. In fact, it will likely cause confusion as Saltillo is forced to hold a separate election.
During municipal elections, all Saltillo residents vote at the community center. During county elections, most Saltillo residents vote at the community center, but some vote at Fellowship or Euclatubba. Those latter voters will have to also travel to the Saltillo Community Center to cast a second ballot.
Instead of trying to rent one of the county’s electronic voting machines, the city will print up simple paper ballots for the referendum. Those yes or no votes will be hand counted.
If the measure passes, businesses will start collecting the tax Jan. 1, 2020. Businesses will collect the money with their regular sales tax and it will be sent to the state Department of Revenue. The state will keep 3 percent of the tourism tax money as a handling fee.
“The other 97 percent will come back to the city to do as the board sees fit,” Evans said. “If the taxes are collected, say during September, then the money is due to the city by Oct. 15.”
In order to vote in the special election, people have to be registered to vote in Saltillo. People have until Oct. 7 to register at Saltillo City Hall.