A tax deal signed Thursday with the French Quarter Management District marked the final step in resuming enhanced police patrols in the Vieux Carré and apparently ended a contentious process over the past 1½ years.
But the deal includes something voters never considered when they approved the tax in April: an exemption for hotel rooms from the new sales tax that will pay for additional policing.
The French Quarter will again see a strengthened police presence now that funding for additional patrols in the area has been secured for the n…
Additional police patrols are generally popular, but the hotel exemption is controversial; Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, the Louisiana State Bond Commission, and the nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research have opposed this. A member of the board of directors of the French Quarter agency, which will oversee tax revenue, fears the exemption could lead to a lawsuit against objections from the Bond Commission or a voter who feels duped.
“It’s not an anti-hotel thing; we all want hotels to survive and thrive. But we did not vote to exempt them, ”said Robert Simms, a person appointed by Cantrell to the council of commissioners. “This could put all of this in dispute, which would delay the start of the release of additional resources. This is what worries me. “
The April 24 referendum asked voters to approve a 0.25% sales tax, estimated at $ 2.5 million per year. The first $ 2 million goes to police patrols, and anything over that goes to “homelessness services”. A similar five-year sales tax expired in late 2020, after voters refused to renew it.
Additional French Quarter police patrols, known for their bloated smart cars and in-app dispatch technology, have ended due to a lack of…
An earlier version of the April ballot measure included exemption for hotel rooms. But the Bond Commission, which holds the authority over referendum language, found the exemption to be illegal. The city council, officially acting as the French Quarter’s special tax authority, then removed the exemption, gaining approval from the Bonds and Voters Commission.
In August, however, council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes the French Quarter, revived the exemption in a council resolution to levy the tax. Collections will begin in October on all French Quarter sales, excluding hotel rooms.
Palmer acknowledged in an interview that removing the ballot exemption was meant to make it “clean” for Bond Commission approval. But she said the previous sales tax also included a chamber exemption and, like the current one, was added by a council resolution after a missing ballot measure.
“The exact same tax was levied from the start. There has been no change, ”said Palmer. “It’s just reinstatement.”
However, the circumstances underlying the exemption are different this time around. Nadine Ramsey, Palmer’s predecessor on the board, supported the previous room exemption in the board resolution in 2016, when the hospitality industry was already concerned about public safety and French Quarter infrastructure through an assessment volunteer hotel rooms. But the industry ceased to generate these revenues last year as the pandemic set in.
This is one of the many reasons the Bureau of Governmental Research denounced the current chamber exemption in a report last month. Among other things, the independent nonprofit said tax standards across the United States include hotel rooms in sales tax levies.
The city of New Orleans collected $ 466,671 through a special French Quarter sales tax in the first six months of the year, although the tax…
The Obligations Commission, meanwhile, has determined that local sales tax exemptions are illegal unless the legislature has granted them to all tax authorities. A spokesperson for the Bond Commission declined to comment on Thursday,
French Quarter Management District leaders have said they are moving forward now that the agency has signed a cooperation agreement with the city.
“We have answered these questions on several occasions. We have the CEA. We move on to developing the budgets, getting enough officers to actually be able to meet the delivery of the CEA, ”said CEO Karley Frankic.
Cantrell said she, too, is moving forward, although she is “deeply concerned that the hotel exemption does not comply with the State Bond Commission,” according to a statement provided by the spokesperson. Beau Tidwell. “We have made our concerns known to all parties. [Palmer] chose to go ahead with the exemption anyway.
The statement added that the Cantrell administration “is happy to finally have an agreement in place, after long delays.”