Craig lodging reps opposing tax

Elk Run owners: Tax is needed for industry, but proposed percentage is too steep

Craig City Council agenda

5:30 p.m. Workshop on energy impact grant application

7:30 p.m. Council Meeting

Agenda:

• Roll call

• Pledge of Allegiance, moment of silence

• Approve June 22 meeting minutes

• Approve June bills

• Approve agenda

• Consent agenda:

— Renewal of tavern liquor license for Mathers’ Bar, Inc.

• Audiences

— Re-appointment of Sid Arola to planning and zoning commission.

— Proclamation of disability awareness week.

— Darcy Trask presentation of business survey results and update on Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

• Other business:

— Ordinance No. 1006 to submit a ballot question to city voters of whether city should collect a 6.9-percent lodging tax in Craig.

— Craig lodging group presentation of petition regarding proposed lodging tax.

— Review bids for Craig/Moffat airport runway project.

— Award of bid for 2010 Steele and 4th street curb and gutter project.

— Award of bid for the 2010 water plant site improvements.

— Resolution No. 9 amending article 14 of the City of Craig personnel policies manual.

• Staff reports:

— Craig police department monthly report for June

• City manager/city attorney reports

— City attorney report regarding political signs.

• Council reports

• Audience comments

• Adjournment

Local lodging representatives are scheduled to present a petition today to the Craig City Council opposing a portion of the city’s proposed lodging tax measure.

Craig residents Cindy and Randy Looper, who own the Elk Run Inn, organized the petition and the group opposing the lodging tax.

The petition includes signatures from 15 lodging representatives who would be impacted by the proposed 6.9-percent lodging tax.

City voters could decide on the tax in November’s general election.

The city council, which meets at 7 p.m. today at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St., is scheduled to introduce the lodging tax ordinance, which was recently finalized by the Craig lodging tax committee.

City council members are required to approve the ordinance and ballot question

language two more times after its introduction for it to be placed on the November ballot.

Cindy Looper said she invited all of the lodging industry representatives who signed the petition to attend the council meeting, but wasn’t sure how many would attend.

The lodging tax committee, comprised of Craig residents, finalized the lodging tax ordinance and ballot question June 30.

The committee is proposing the levy be collected in the city and divided into four categories related to the improvement of tourism in the area. The committee is also proposing two entities manage the lodging tax money.

Randy Looper said lodging tax representatives who signed the petition agree that 6.9-percent is too much for the tax.

“We are not against this tax,” he said. “Personally, originally, and as a hotel lodging group, we think that tourism needs to be promoted. And yes, we agree there needs to be a hotel tax and maybe it does need to be increased, but not to this extent.”

Cindy said the 6.9-percent tax would make taxes on hotel rooms in Craig higher than most other cities in the area.

Randy agreed.

“The feelings are that because we are isolated, people will just pay (the taxes) and go on,” Randy said. “Yet talking to guests, which numerous of us have been doing, they’re feeling is, ‘We’ll be going somewhere else.’”

Another reason the Loopers said they are opposing the tax is due to the type of travelers who stay in local lodging establishments.

Randy said about 80 percent of his business comes from business travelers.

He said the hotel might have to lower rates if the measure passes due to the spending constrictions on most business travelers.

“I’m assuming that we are going to end up lowering our prices,” he said “They’re not going to eat it. … What they are going to do is say, ‘We (will) go somewhere else or you lower your price. You eat it.’”

Tammie Thompson-Booker, regional director of sales for Candlewood Inn & Suites, also signed the Looper’s petition, and said she would attend the city council meeting in support of the petition.

She said she would support up to a 5-percent tax, but the 6.9-percent tax would put a strain on business travelers who stay at her hotel.

“For people who travel for a living and are given a per diem, they try to live as far under that so they can put a few extra bucks in their pocket,” she said. “That $2 may not seem like a lot to you or I, but when you travel and for the length of term that you travel, it is a big deal.”

Passing an increase in the lodging tax, Cindy said, would put stress on the lodging industry considering the bad economy and occupancy rate of area hotels.

“One more percent drop in occupancy could put some of these places, maybe not the Holiday Inn or the Best Western, but it could put some of the little guys out of business,” she said. “It’s not a time where we can afford to lose anything.”

Council member Terry Carwile said he thought the lodging industry had several opportunities to weigh in on the matter before the tax percentage was finalized.

“I recall distinctly that the topic was discussed on those first two meetings and we came away with 100 percent support for that amount,” he said.

Carwile said he would consider the group’s input, but he is “not going to recommend to council that we move away from the hard work that the committee did.”

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