Local officials have hit the snooze button on a proposed countywide bed tax for tourism.
Last week, First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said he has been approached by constituents about charging lodgers an extra tax when they stay in local hotels.
But he said Wednesday that the county is not going to implement the tax now. He added that he thinks things are “just fine” at this time.
City Tourism Taxes
If people are interested in adopting tourism taxes, then they should pursue those in cities within the county, Brinker added.
The county’s role is to foster job growth not promote a tourism tax, Brinker said.
He agreed that such a tax can be good for a community, noting that he was on the Washington City Council when one was implemented there.
County Collector Linda Emmons said lodging taxes in other communities raise significant revenue, and much of it is from people who live elsewhere.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said he does not think a countywide lodging tax would have a chance of passing.
He noted that it would require legislative approval, and the Missouri Hotel & Lodging Association would likely fight it.
“It would be impossible to pass legislatively,” Griesheimer said.
That’s because four cities in Franklin County have already received approval from the Legislature to implement bed taxes — Washington, Pacific, Union and Sullivan.
However, Pacific and Washington are the only local cities that levy the taxes while Sullivan and Union have not enacted theirs, he noted.
Griesheimer said the Missouri Hotel & Lodging Association would likely oppose any efforts to put an additional countywide tourism tax on Washington and Pacific since those cities already have one.
Griesheimer authored the legislation for the local tourism taxes when he served in the state Legislature.
Sullivan City Administrator J.T. Hardy said the city council there put the tax up for a public vote twice, but it was defeated.
Sullivan City Councilman Jason Alexander owns Budget Lodging in St. Clair and said he has a moral dilemma with a lodging tax. He said it is wrong to charge visitors an extra tax when they do not get to vote on the matter. He called it taxation without representation.
Alexander said the Sullivan City Council put the tax on the ballot at the request of the Chamber of Commerce. He was not on the council when the measure was put before voters.
But he said hotels in Sullivan campaigned against the tax and won.
Despite his opposition to the tax, Alexander said tourism is a worthy investment that should be supported.
Bed Tax Revenue
Director of Tourism for the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce Mary Beth Rettke also opposes a countywide bed tax since Washington and Pacific already have one. She is concerned that an additional tax would burden lodging establishments in those cities.
Rettke added that Pacific’s and Washington’s bed taxes are set at 5 percent. The city of Washington uses 95 percent of its lodging tax to contract with the Chamber of Commerce for tourism promotion. The other 5 percent is used by the city for special events.
Washington’s lodging tax generated $123,550 in 2012. Washington voters approved the tax in 1999.
Pacific’s tax generated a little more than $75,000 between July 2012 to June of this year, said City Clerk Kim Barfield.
Pacific uses its lodging tax to advertise different events such as a car show, Christmas on the Plaza and Railroad Day, Barfield said. It has also been used to help pay for billboard advertising, fireworks displays and a special publication in Missouri Life magazine.
Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz could not be reached for comment.