Rogers com­mis­sion seeks ho­tel tax hike

Higher room rates for trav­el­ers if OK’d

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM Tom Sissom can be reached by email at tsis­ or on Twit­ter at NWATom.

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.

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