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      First recipient of extra tourism dollars announced

      Many believe the economy is starting to turn around when it comes to owning a home, and the Albany Board of City Commissioners say property values have increased, causing them to bring in a bit more money in taxes.

      "We would have $40,000 more than we would have last year but it's not a millage rate increase. The thing is we always have to pass the millage rate based on the budget, and that's what we did tonight," said Mayor Dorothy Hubbard.

      One of the things that can help commissioners keep the millage rate at the same level is the potential revenue brought on by the Hotel/Motel Tax increase. In March, House Bill 233 passed in Georgia, raising the hotel/motel tax in Albany from 7% to 8%. Officials say it will bring in an estimated $200,000 more that has to be spent on promoting tourism.

      "There are five entities from which a city or county, whoever is levying the tax, can choose to administer it and one of the choices that can be made is a private sector non-profit organization," said City Attorney Nathan Davis.

      The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce falls under that category and on Tuesday evening the board chose to make them one of the recipients of the extra tourism dollars. Officials say the extra money is just another way to help them keep the other taxes from going up.

      "If we don't have those funds, then it means that money would have to come out of city budget and there again you're talking about property taxes whereas these funds are actually earmarked just for tourism and improving tourism," said Mayor Hubbard.

      With tourism bringing millions of dollars to Albany, the board says it's a win-win situation for the city.

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