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One Hotel Owner’s Tax: $1.5 Million Plus

“We are not against helping downtown,” says Amin, who owns 18 hotels, 14 of which are located in Hopewell and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover. “But we are doing more than anyone else. Every time something needs money, this industry is the one that gets taxed.”

In the latest attempt to raise money to pay for downtown projects, Amin represents the other side of a story that’s falling below the public radar. Owners who don’t operate the city’s big, convention-sized hotels are wondering why they must foot the bill for downtown improvements.

At the meeting, two-thirds of the association’s membership voted to support the tax increase. (Members’ votes were weighted — the more hotel rooms they owned, the more votes they had.)

About 70 percent of the 1-percent increase would pay for the planned $150 million Performing Arts Center; the rest would go into a special fund managed by the hotel association and the Metro Richmond Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

That special fund would be used to offer marketing incentives on behalf of the hotels, says William H. Baxter, president and chief executive of the Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond, such as shuttle buses to the counties and discounted parking for conventioneers. That benefits everyone, he says, and many hotel owners agree. “We were very pleased” with the amount of support generated at the meeting, Baxter says.

The hotel association, which falls under the umbrella of the Retail Merchants Association, represents 8,208 of the 14,917 hotel rooms in the region.

With their support, the Performing Arts Foundation now plans to lobby the localities involved — Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover must approve the increase — and then it must pass in the General Assembly. If it succeeds there, the lodging tax will increase to 9 percent. Of the current 8 percent local lodging tax, about 6 percent goes to the convention center.

Operators such as Amin aren’t happy about it. “We are not talking about a penny here and a penny there,” he says. “It’s money out of my pocket.” He says the business generated by the convention center — and the planned Performing Arts Center, for that matter, doesn’t justify his high tax bill.

Ron Huntjens, general manager of Microtel Inn & Suites, which is located near the airport, concurs. “It’s not going to put one person in my hotel,” he says.

— Scott Bass

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