The Augusta City Council chose to allow a Charter Ordinance they passed in October to be rescinded.
The governing body did not set a date for an election to allow residents to vote on the Charter Ordinance after a valid petition was filed challenging the ordinance in December. Without an election, the council is basically rescinding its action from October.
Losing the ability to raise the guest tax rate and to use it for opportunities other than those prescribed by the current Charter Ordinance will not necessarily doom the new hotel development that led to the passage of the Charter Ordinance in the first place. Other local cities have used similar language to that in Augusta’s charter to offer many of the incentives the hotel developer and local investors have requested.
“The purpose of the new Charter Ordinance was to provide the council with the flexibility to raise the city’s transient guest tax to six percent if it so chooses and to broaden the use of the guest tax funds for economic development purposes,” said City Manager Gabe Gonzalez. “In retrospect, this is not necessary.”
The election required by the petition would have cost the city more than $10,000. It was circulated by several former city councilors. The entire petition can be found at www.butlercountytimesgazette.com.
One of the former city councilors who supported the petition drive was Ken Bratton. Bratton was in attendance Monday night to address the council.
“I would agree with the city manager that this Charter Ordinance was not necessary,” Bratton said. “After speaking with people who signed the petition and the public at large, I think most Augusta residents were against this.”
Bratton – one of three people who were candidates to take Ward Two City Councilor Mike Wallace’s seat after his recent sudden resignation from the council - said those who circulated the petition were not against a hotel development, they just did not want the council to have that kind of control over the guest tax funds.
Matt Malone made a motion to allow the Charter Ordinance to be rescinded without an election. Matt Childers seconded the motion which passed unanimously 7-0 with Mike Rawlings absent Monday night.