Editorial: Openess And Understanding

In Thursday’s paper, we reported that the Town of Latta had approved a resolution to implement a two percent hospitality tax and a three percent accommodations tax that they had passed in 2008.
In 2008, it was a wise move for the town to go ahead and pass the two ordinances to prevent the county from being able to pass an ordinance which would have entitled them to the money which most would agree should have rightfully belonged and should have gone to the town. At that time, they chose not to implement the ordinance, but rather put it in place as a preventive tool to keep the county from getting it. With the possibility of spin-off businesses especially in the prepared foods industry coming from the future I-73, it was a good way to ensure that the town would not lose out on those revenues in years to come.
With that being said, it seems like a very poor time for the town to move forward with implementing these taxes. The town has not yet realized any benefits from the future I-73, and most everyone would agree that the economy is bad, to say the least. It seems like implementing the tax now would put an undue burden on a small number of businesses in a time when many businesses are struggling to survive. In the food industry particularly, many businesses are already facing additional costs from rising food prices and gasoline prices and the additional tax may be more than they and their customers can bear.
Customers may not be able to eat out as often or may find it just as affordable to eat elsewhere which will not help the businesses or the town.
The same can be said for accommodations. If a person can stay in a bigger city for the same or less money and only has to travel a little further, what motivation would they have to stay in Latta?
Most every town and business are looking for ways to generate money in these difficult economic times and that’s understandable. The mayor stated that these funds could have been used to match the streetscape grant, for example, which is designed to generate tourism; however, some could argue that it doesn’t do much good to have streets that look nice, if there is no place to go when you get there. These kinds of things work hand-in-hand with each other.
Perhaps that’s the approach the town should have taken…working hand-in-hand with the affected business owners rather than just putting this on the council agenda, which most people admittedly do not look at, and letting it go through.
The mayor said that the town planned to have a meeting with these business owners after it was brought to council, but that’s too late. With just nine business owners affected by this (by the town’s count), it would have been a nice gesture to have let these business owners know that it was coming up on the agenda so if they wanted to express their concerns they could before the resolution was passed and while the council was gathered and available to hear them.
Perhaps some compromise could have been reached…a partial implementation of the tax for example or if that is not allowable, perhaps some type of understanding could have been gained by those on both sides of the coin why this was necessary at this particular time and the effect that implementation was going to have on these businesses.
Sometimes, a little bit of openess coupled with a good dose of understanding can go a long way.