After hearing concerns, a proposal from Middletown Councilwoman Terri Flynn to add a $1 to $5 new room fee for hotels, motels, and short-term rentals failed to get the necessary support during a meeting Monday night.
The Town of Middletown shared the following update regarding the proposal on its website;
ROOM FEE PROPOSAL TO PAY FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS DOESN’T PROGRESS
Plans for a new room fee on hotels, motels and short-term rentals to pay for school improvements isn’t moving forward — for now.
At a meeting Monday night in Town Hall, Town Councilwoman Terri Flynn didn’t get a second for her motion to send enabling legislation to the General Assembly, meaning the proposal didn’t get the necessary support.
That followed a push by those in the hotel and short-term rental business — along with a former Councilman — urging against the new fee.
Steve Kyriakides, whose family owns the Wyndham Newport Hotel on Aquidneck Avenue, said while $1 more per room didn’t sound like a lot, it was in today’s environment of rising gas prices, the COVID-19 pandemic and a world knocked off its axis with what’s happening in the Ukraine.
“Now is not the time to be considering additional taxation on the public,” Kyriakides said.
Leon Amarant, who was representing Short-Term Rental Owners Of Middletown, agreed, saying the local rental community was already going to be paying more as a result of the Town’s new Tiered Residential Tax Program adopted in late December by the council.
“I personally have never seen a fee like this on any bill,” Amarant said, saying the fee could have a negative impact on tourism and travel.
Ex-Councilman Rick Lombardi said speaking with a local businessman who was planning a wedding for his daughter in September and some of the guests might not be able to come. That’s due to rising gas prices, inflation and other costs, something he said that another fee would only drive up costs.
“Travel and tourism and people who come here, it’s discretionary (money),” Lombardi said. “They choose to come here. People may not be able to come.”
In February, Flynn first proposed the idea, saying Middletown needed to try to do something different to pay for improvements to its schools and new Outreach Program.
Facing up to $190 million in upgrades and improvements to the existing schools, Flynn said Middletown taxpayers would have an impossible time footing those bills along.
Under her plan, guests to all Middletown hotels, motels and short-term rentals would pay a $1 to $5 flat fee per rented room. According to Flynn’s figures, the Town stood to pick up $365,000 a year and up to $3.7 million on the most aggressive position.
The idea is not a new one for Middletown. As recently as 2018, Middletown teamed up with the City of Newport to try to add a new fee on meals and hotel stays. When that proposal got to the General Assembly, town officials said it didn’t move any further.
“These don’t really seem like amounts that will prevent visitors from visiting,” Flynn said.