Somerset City Council has given first-reading approval to an ordinance that would establish a Somerset Tourist and Travel Commission and levy a 1 percent transient tax on guests at lodging places in the city.
The 1 percent levy would be on top of the 3 percent transient tax currently levied by Pulaski Fiscal Court.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said the council is in the process of establishing a tourist and travel commission because of a need to promote conventions to benefit restaurants and motels in the city. Also, he said Somerset has been excluded from the Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is a Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau ... Somerset is not included,” said Girdler.
Asked when city council will give second-reading to the ordinance, Girdler responded: “IF WE DO give it a second reading.”
The mayor said he still prefers a joint commission with the county. He indicated there have been meetings with the county about the issue without satisfactory responses.
Girdler said he believes a Somerset Tourist and Travel Commission would have no connection to or effect on the county’s transient tax or convention and visitors bureau. The mayor estimated a 1 percent transient tax in the city would generate between $25,000 to $30,000 a year.
The Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bur-eau during the 2011-12 fiscal year collected $327,601.28 in transient taxes. The year before, $294,748.60. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said 1,290,000 people vacationed in Pulaski County during the 2011 fiscal year.
Girdler was reminded that timing of the council’s action on tourism may be perceived as part of the mayor’s harsh reaction to a current effort to conduct a study of benefits of a unified city-county government.
“Of course it will, but it definitely is not connected,” said Girdler. “The ordinance (given first reading Monday night) was written more than a year ago.” The mayor said the state for the past 20 years has allowed cities to levy a 1 percent transient tax to promote conventions. Somerset up to now has not done it,” he noted.