WARNER ROBINS -- The City Council will consider at its next meeting whether to reallocate its hotel/motel tax to give the Museum of Aviation about $200,000 more each year.
The council discussed the issue at a called meeting Tuesday because the change has to go before the General Assembly. City Attorney Jim Elliott said there should be enough time to get the change passed by the state if the council approves it at its March 7 meeting.
Mayor Randy Toms expressed support for shifting more money to the museum.
"One of the things that attracts people to our town is the museum, so I think it benefits everybody involved," Toms said.
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The city currently collects eight cents on the dollar on charges for hotel and motel rooms in the city in addition to sales taxes. Of that, 1.5 cents goes to the museum and another 1.5 cents toward construction and operation of the new visitors center.
The 1.5 cents the museum currently receives amounted to $315,630 in the past fiscal year.
The city has raised $1.6 million from the tax for the visitors center, which has yet to be built. Toms said that is enough to build the center, so the city can afford to shift that money toward the museum and a new sports complex. The money is required by law to go toward something that draws tourism.
After some debate and various proposals, Councilman Mike Davis suggested shifting one cent of the visitor's center allocation to the museum. The other half cent would be spent on recreational facilities.
Council members seemed agreeable to that idea.
"I think that would be one of the best things we have done in years," Councilman Chuck Shaheen said.
Some consideration was given to go ahead and vote on the change at Tuesday's called meeting. But Elliott said the change has to be advertised before it can go to the General Assembly, so waiting until the next meeting wouldn't slow it down much.
Chrissy Miner, president of the Museum of Aviation Foundation, told the council that the museum has suffered financially due to federal cutbacks. Attendance also has dropped off because of the economy, she said. The museum drew more than 400,000 people last year, but Miner said it has drawn well over 500,000 in some years. However, she said it remains the second most visited Air Force museum and the fourth most visited museum in the Department of Defense.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.