County OKs Accommodation Ordinance Change

Following a public hearing on the issue, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to an ordinance change that shifts responsibility for the county’s accommodation tax from the county treasurer to the county finance director. The vote came at the board’s Oct. 17, 2012 meeting. Initial approval had been given on Oct. 3, 2012.

The ordinance amendment approved by commissioners transfers a 0.7 full-time equivalent accounting job from the treasurer’s office to the county finance department, and amends the accommodation tax policy to clarify that the tax is only assessed against the actual price of a hotel, motel or other rental – not against other amenities that the business might charge its customers, such as Internet access or an extra cot in the room. [.pdf of ordinance amendment] [.pdf of amended accommodation ordinance] [.pdf of amended accommodation policy]

According to a staff memo, the changes are being recommended by the county’s accommodation ordinance commission (AOC), as well as the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention and visitors bureaus, which receive funding from the 5% tax. In 2011, revenues from the tax reached nearly $4 million, and are allocated on a 75/25 percentage split to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti CVBs.

This is the second recent change to the accommodation tax ordinance. At its Aug. 1, 2012 meeting, the board amended the ordinance to exempt cottages and bed & breakfasts with fewer than 14 rooms, as well as individuals who occasionally lease out rooms. These types of establishments account for less than 1% of the total tax collected in Washtenaw County, according to a staff memo accompanying the resolution. Several owners of bed & breakfasts spoke to the board in favor of that amendment, citing concerns over the increased frequency of audits and general attitude of the treasurer’s staff, which they felt was unnecessarily contentious.

On Oct. 3, two people – both members of the local hotel association – spoke in support of the proposed change. No one spoke at the Oct. 17 public hearing.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]