By Meagan Hurley and Kelcey Caulder
Members of the City of Waleska met with President Dr. Thomas Isherwood last Friday to discuss the city’s planned imposition of a hotel/motel tax ordinance, a consumer lodging taxation, on Reinhardt resident students. If passed, the ordinance would require approximately 615 resident students to pay a set taxation fee, ranging from three to eight percent, each semester in order to reside at the Waleska campus.
If passed, the ordinance would be the first instance of hotel/motel taxation to occur on a residential campus in Georgia. It would go into effect on July 1, 2015.
According to city officials, the proceeds of this taxation would go toward placing and maintaining streetlights, sidewalks and new signage around Waleska, as a portion of the hotel/motel tax must directly benefit community tourism.
In breaking down how the taxation would work, Aimee Abernathy, City Manager, said, “You pay a set number for food, room, board, and all of it. It’s part of that package. So what you would do, [they] would take out anything for food, the only thing that would be looked at is the count for heads in beds. The actual amount of bodies that sleep in just the facility. You would divide that amount into the number of days of the semester, multiply that times thirty, and then that’s by the percentages.
So, if part of the package is $500 dollars for thirty days, it would be $15 a semester for this tax. That tax would go into sidewalks, streetlights, and other improvements.”
In short, the rate will be concluded by dividing the number of residents by the number of days in a semester, and then multiplying that number times thirty.
Doris Jones, Mayor of Waleska, views the taxation as a way for students to be involved in the improvement of the Waleska community.
“We want to change the face of Waleska…By doing the small amount that you would be doing, in some ways you would gain ownership, you would have a piece of Waleska… You could walk around and say, ‘I helped do that,’” Mayor Jones said last Friday.
She continued, ”We are looking to bring about a better looking Waleska. Reinhardt is already beautiful. We have not had the funds to do it with… This is a way that it’s not going to hurt the students.”
Abernathy added, “[Dr. Isherwood] explained to us the concerns of the students and of the independent schools because this has not been imposed in Georgia. It is legal, but people have not taken advantage of this opportunity. We are so small that we need this opportunity. “
University President Isherwood takes a different stance on the hotel/motel ordinance, stating that he feels Reinhardt students are, and should be considered, citizens of Waleska. Citizens of a jurisdiction are not subject to hotel/motel ordinances.
“I expressed to the mayor that I felt the students living in residence halls were citizens of Waleska and that our students should be able to register to vote in the city of Waleska,” he said.
”I spoke to the mayor and city manager Friday. My understanding is that they are being advised by the Department of Community Affairs that they can apply a hotel/ motel tax to our residential students. We have been in contact with our attorney and he interprets the law differently and doesn’t feel that that’s possible.
Basically, I informed the mayor that this will be an issue for our students and their parents. We will encourage our students to express themselves and to be involved, to be respectful, but at the same time to be free to take whatever political action they feel appropriate…If it does become law, obviously Reinhardt obeys the law.”
Student Government Association President, Alexander Bryant, issued the following statement on behalf of himself and the SGA Executive Board:
“Student Government Association does not support or condone the taxation policy proposed by the City of Waleska. Reinhardt University and its residential students do not want or need this financial burden imposed by the City. We believe it sets a dangerous precedent for taxation of residential students not only in the community of North Georgia, but nationwide.
We are not opposed to the City of Waleska’s growth, in fact, we support it. However, we believe that there is a way to achieve that growth which is mutually beneficial to both parties, and does not involve putting a further financial strain on low-income college students. Student Government Association will work to mobilize the students of Reinhardt to fight this policy in any way possible.”
The proposed hotel/motel taxation will be discussed in further depth at the City Council meeting on Sept. 22. Meetings occur every first and third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. Council members encourage attendance.
For more details regarding the hotel/motel taxation ordinance, visit: