Rome is moving to collect hotel/motel taxes on the rental of vacation properties in the city.
The General Administration Committee signed off Tuesday on plans for a new short-term rental ordinance that will allow the city to capture the revenue from Airbnbs and other Vacation Rental By Owner properties.
City Attorney Andy Davis explained that a new state law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week includes marketplace facilitators in the definition of “innkeepers” required to charge the excise tax.
“A lot of this tax (money) has been missed,” Davis said.
Neither he nor any of the city officials present offered to speculate how much revenue the tax might generate. However Lisa Smith, executive director of the Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism, said there are a lot of Airbnb and VRBO properties across Rome and Floyd County.
Committee members asked Davis to present a draft ordinance to the full Rome City Commission.
If adopted, the ordinance would require that people owning an Airbnb or VRBO register with the city. The Airbnb and VRBO corporate offices would collect the taxes at the time facilities are booked, then remit payments to the city and state.
The committee also asked that Davis look into submitting the ordinance for consideration by the Floyd County Commission and Cave Spring City Council.
Also on Tuesday, the committee approved a format for the new Landmarking Committee that also will go to the full City Commission.
The committee was created last year to develop methods for permanently recognizing and memorializing local historical sites or individuals. It would be the one charged with determining the placement of the controversial Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.
City Clerk Joe Smith is suggesting that the Landmarking Committee have five members. One would be a commissioner appointed by the mayor. The Rome Area History Center and Rome Area Heritage Foundation would each get a representative, and two other members would be appointed at large.
Smith is also recommending the committee establish an application process for landmark nominations, with a cap of two per year, with any dedication ceremony taking place during Heritage Holidays in October.
“I think this is a very good framework,” City Manager Sammy Rich said.
Committee members also discussed the commissioners’ compensation and benefits package.
Human Resources Director Kristy Shepard surveyed 15 other communities across North Georgia and found that 10 of them pay commissioners more than the $8,400 Rome commissioners receive. She said the average is a little more than $10,000 a year.
Five of the other communities offer their commissioners a defined benefits retirement plan. Commissioner Bill Collins is the only one of the nine Rome commissioners to take advantage of a 475(b) retirement saving plan offered by the city.
The committee asked Shepard to get some more information — such as how many commissioners serve each city in the survey, and their age range — before taking further action.
Davis said the board’s salary is established in the city charter, which would have to be amended before the pay plan could be changed.
Rich also won approval from the panel for an extension of the Barron Stadium management agreement with Rome City Schools. The deal makes it clear that the stadium is owned by the city and the school system is responsible for day-to-day operations.
Stonebridge Golf Course Manager Patrick Kirn also reported Tuesday that the course turned a $3,500 profit in 2020.
“We’re going to crush that profit this year,” Kirn said. The last time Stonebridge finances were in the black was 2012.