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Lawmakers delete Playhouse from potential bed tax hike

The state Legislature has granted the Henderson County Board of Commissioners the authority to raise the lodging tax without directing the proceeds to the Flat Rock Playhouse.

The bill became law Monday. A local bill, it is not subject to approval by the governor.

The bill revised a law the General Assembly passed last year that authorized an increase in the bed tax from 5 to 6 cents and mandated that the proceeds go to the Flat Rock Playhouse. The law now allows the tax increase for tourism promotion without specific direction in how the additional money would be used, state Rep. Chuck McGrady said in an email. Current law also allows the Board of Commissioners to lower the rate.

The revised law does not bar the county from channeling occupancy tax money to the Playhouse. The county currently allocates a half cent of the 5-cent lodging tax to the Heritage Museum.

Last year the Legislature authorized county commissioners to raise the tax but directed the proceeds to the Playhouse, which was at the time suffering from a financial crisis that threatened to put it out of business. Residents strongly protested the proposed occupancy tax increase and commissioners never adopted it. A 1-cent tax increase would raise about $223,000. Playhouse president Bill McKibbin said last year that they were no longer pursuing local and state approval of the designated occupancy tax.