Letter to the Editor: Paying taxes, appointment to Tourist Commission

269
October 2018 Guest Bill

Oct. 16, 2018

Dear Editor:

Last night, I spoke in opposition to an appointment to the Natchitoches CVB Tourism Board at the Natchitoches Parish Government meeting.  As you may or may not know, the Natchitoches CVB Board is responsible for appropriating approximately $500,000 of collected tax money to promote Natchitoches Parish Tourism.

The general manager of the Chateau St. Denis Hotel was recommended for one of the open positions on that board. Fortunately for Natchitoches Parish Taxpayers, the Parish Council did not agree and tabled the vote.

I made the Parish Council aware of the upcoming opinion from Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Office regarding unpaid and resort fee taxes arrearages from the Chateau St Denis Hotel.

The Natchitoches CVB Board requested this opinion after Mr. Jerry McWherter of the Natchitoches Tax commission said he would do nothing in collecting those back-taxes, giving no reason other than he wants to move on.

Last night I spoke on these two valid points as opposition on placing the Chateau St Denis Hotel general manager to the Natchitoches CVB Board

1. Ownership of Chateau St. Denis and/or any of its employees should not be allowed to make any decision regarding the tax collections in regards to the Natchitoches CVB’s money when there is an upcoming opinion from the Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, requested by the Natchitoches Parish CVB Board, to investigate potential money owed by Chateau St Denis Hotel.

2. Chateau St. Denis Hotel continues to avoid (according to attached hotel folios) collection of the tax on the mandatory resort fee, failing to collect it from its guests.

As brought to the attention in earlier correspondence, Chateau St Denis Hotel, as well as Jerry McWherter (Natchitoches Parish Tax Commissioner), claimed to now be collecting and paying taxes on the mandatory resort fee, as of July 1, 2018.

According to my math, this appears to be untrue.  I have receipts from a guest stay at the hotel on two separate occasions, in July and last week.  Both times, according to hotel receipts, the hotel was not collecting 50 cents at the detriment to the Natchitoches CVB and City of Natchitoches TIF tax rolls.

The total hotel sales tax rate in Natchitoches is 14.95 percent.  That is not what is being collected according to those guest receipts. I stated to the Natchitoches Parish Government Board members as well as Parish President to be on notice and to understand they may be aiding to this tax evasion by allowing the hotel manager to this board.

This whole situation feels like the adage, “the fox guarding the hen-house.”  It is a blatant conflict of interest.

In conclusion, this is not a pot shot at the hotel manager or the hard working employees at Chateau St Denis. Some have worked for our company and I consider them friends.  These people are just doing their jobs and are good folks.

My issue is with upper management at Chateau St Denis taking advantage of our community and showing ZERO RESPECT to the tax paying populace. The days of turning a blind eye are over. We are watching. Please do the right thing! I have attached guest receipts showing shortages of tax collections from the Chateau St Denis Hotel.

Jay Sharplin, Sharpco Hotels Group

Natchitoches, LA

July 2018 Guest Bill