Beauregard tourism commission takes hit from loss of hotel/motel tax collections
Revenues are down this year for the Beauregard Parish Tourism Commission, and officials are putting part of the blame on local lodging businesses failing to comply with the parish’s occupancy tax.
Tourism Commission Director Lori Darbonne told members of the Police Jury last week that she has had no luck in collecting the hotel and motel tax from businesses in the area or local RV parks. That loss cost the commission $24,000 last year, she said. This year’s loss will not be reported until next month.
“We are letting money slip through our fingers and we need to find a way to stop that,” Darbonne said.
According to Parish Administrator Bryan McReynolds, the tourism commission is authorized to levy and collect a tax upon the occupancy of hotel rooms, motel rooms and overnight camping facilities within the parish.
Darbonne said during the summer Watermelon Festival, she sent two different people on two different days to a popular motel near DeRidder, and said both individuals were not charged state or parish hotel taxes.
“We checked a popular RV park recently two weeks in a row. One week they had 65 campers, another week they had 68, and they were not consistent in paying at all,” Darbonne said.
Members of the Police Jury’s finance committee agreed to cooperate with Darbonne to help collect the taxes and remit them to the tax assessor’s office. McReynolds said that assistance may include sending letters or performing audits of the facilities required to comply with the occupancy tax law.
Darbonne said the commission began the year with a heavy hit after the loss of revenue from the cancellation of the 2017 Watermelon Festival due to inclement weather. Compounded with the occupancy tax loss, Darbonne said she has had to “slash” the commission’s budget by cutting back personnel and hours to conserve spending.
“Our budget is probably more distressed now than it has ever been,” she said.
Despite the budget woes, Darbonne said the Haunted Gothic Jail event will go on as anticipated this Halloween in hopes its revenue will assist in stabilizing the commission’s budget.
More relief could come in the form of two grants, she said, that are expected to be awarded to the commission by the end of the year.