Rogers commission seeks hotel tax hike
Higher room rates for travelers if OK’d
ROGERS — Travelers will see higher room rates if the City Council approves a proposal to increase the city’s hotel/motel tax from 2 percent to 3 percent.
The Rogers Advertising and Promotion Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to ask the council for the increase. Raymond Burns, president and CEO of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, said the request could go to the council in time for its July 25 meeting. Burns said the council can approve the suggested increase on its own authority, without seeking voter approval.
“According to the state statute, the City Council has the authority to levy the tax both for restaurants and hotels with only a vote of the City Council unless the money is going to be encumbered by bonds,” Burns said. Burns said bonds would be needed only for a major project, like a sports arena, and nothing on that scale is being considered.
The commission’s request is to raise the tax on hotels and motels only. Rogers doesn’t have a restaurant tax. According to J.R. Shaw, president of Visit Rogers and a senior vice-president of the chamber, Rogers is at a disadvantage in competing with cities with larger advertising and promotion budgets, including Northwest Arkansas cities Fayetteville and Bentonville, and regional cities such as Springfield, Mo., Joplin, Mo., Tulsa, Okla., and Oklahoma City.
“We all recognize and realize the impact tourism has had and is having on Northwest Arkansas,” Shaw said, citing figures showing a $365 million tourism economy and 3,600 area jobs in tourism.
Mayor Greg Hines said he couldn’t say how the request will be received by the council, but he generally favors the hotel/motel tax.
“We want to be part of that,” Shaw said. “We want to be competitive. We want to be out in front of that. Right now, we have a hard time doing that. We need to have a bigger and better presence.”
Shaw said the city’s 2 percent hotel/motel tax, which was approved in the late 1990s, generated about $833,000 in 2016. Increasing the tax to 3 percent would provide another $ 400,000 for the commission to spend to promote Rogers.
The commission agreed to ask for the increased hotel tax, with several members noting the cost falls largely on out-of-town visitors, unlike the restaurant tax which local residents would also pay.
“We don’t want to tax our own people,” Mark Kruger, commission chairman and one of two aldermen on the commission, said during the meeting.
Mayor Greg Hines said he couldn’t say how the request will be received by the council, but he generally favors the hotel/motel tax. Hines said the city has supplemented the commission’s budget by about $100,000 a year out of the city’s general fund for the past decade and this increase would allow the city to discontinue that.