Rome, Cartersville and Hart County filed suit in 2005 against online companies such as Hotels.com, Priceline and Expedia, contending they owe hotel/motel taxes on the rates they charge their customers rather than on the discounted rates they pay local hotels.
City Attorney Andy Davis said the settlement calls for the online travel companies to pay the difference they’ve collected since May 16, 2011 — and to pay tax on the retail price going forward.
“We don’t know what the dollar amount would be yet,” Davis said. “But the first payment would be a lump sum at 7 percent interest, and there’d be monthly payments after that.”
Fourteen other cities and counties — including Rockmart, Cedartown and Dalton — joined the suit in 2006, and U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy granted class action status in 2011 for all local governments that levy the taxes.
The Rome law firm Brinson, Askew, Berry, Richardson, Siegler and Davis is representing the plaintiffs in the case.
Davis said Monday the settlement has to be approved individually by all 17 named plaintiffs, the defendants and Judge Murphy. Then the other affected cities and counties would be notified by publication.
“It’s about a four-month process,” he said.
The firm is still litigating other parts of the lawsuit.
Davis said they are seeking the taxes due on sales between the date of the suit, Nov. 18, 2005, and May 16, 2011. They also want the tax to be paid on the full amount the companies charge their customers — including the fees added on to the retail room rate.
Both sides have filed for summary judgement, asking Murphy to issue a ruling in their favor on those issues.
“So it’s still hotly contested,” Davis said.
In other actions Monday, the City Commission:
“No additional license is needed for the establishments. It’s just another option for them,” City Clerk Joe Smith.
Groceries, convenience stores and other outlets that already sell beer, wine or liquor will be able to sell on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Commissioners considered the encroachment into a residential area, but determined the business was already operating legally on the North Broad Street tracts. The additional property gave Martin room to add tree buffers at the rear and sides of the car lot.