Lodging tax question brings debate before election

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COLUMBIA - Columbia voters will decide whether to raise the lodging tax from four percent to five percent on the Aug. 2nd ballot.

If passed, the one percent increase will be added on to hotel and motel receipts for guests to pay in the next 23 years. Columbia is looking to gain about $10 million from the lodging tax increase. The tax will go back down to four percent if the total $10 million is met before the 23 years.

President of Columbia Hospitality Association Glyn Laverick is concerned the wording on the ballot is too vague. "It allows the city to spend that money on really anything to do with economic development, and now that is a broad umbrella for the city to use," said Laverick.

The ballot language says: "Shall the City of Columbia, Missouri increase the gross receipts license tax on hotels and motels from 4 percent to 5 percent of the gross daily rental recipients due from or paid by transient guests for a period not to exceed 23 years, such gross receipts license tax to be used for tourism and economic development purposes including the construction of a new airport terminal and related improvements, with such tax thereafter to be levied at a rate of 4 percent?

Yes   ___
No     ___."

Community Relations Director for Columbia Steven Sapp said tourism and economic development are intertwined.

"Tourism is economic development. When you bring people into town for Roots and Blues, when you bring people into town for Citizen Jane festival, for True False film festival, not only is it tourism coming into Columbia, but it is economic development because you are bringing money into local businesses, and so forth," said Sapp.

If the lodging tax increase is passed, Columbia is looking to receive about half of its funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. That is estimated to be worth about $20 million. The lodging tax will account for about $10 million, and the remaining money will be paid through various sources.

The extra sources of funding could potentially come from state funding, airport transportation funds, private-pubic funding, nominal parking fees, etc. 

Laverick brings up concerns that Columbia will be the only ones increasing their taxes, when other cities around the area use the airport. 

Sapp argues that it is hard to advocate specific numbers to all the cities that currently use the airport, and there isn't an even divide. 

The airport has not been upgraded for the last 50 years.

Co-chair for the foundation Columbia's Future Greg Steinhoff said, "50 years is a long time to go without improving something. Columbia has made a ton of improvements in almost every aspect, particularly in the last couple of decades. We just need this airport to be emblematic of what we have done in Columbia and personally in every other area.”

If Proposition 1 is passed some improvements to the airport will include:

  • Enable additional flights and destinations
  • Improve safety and security
  • Make the airport ADA compliant
  • Enable additional, safer parking
  • Provide for more passenger convenience
  • Jetways
  • Improved energy efficiency in terminal building
  • primarily funded by travelers