If you go
What: Community forum on Referendum 2B, the Craig lodging tax proposal
When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St.
— The forum is open to the public.
Chris Jones hopes Craig voters of all stripes will attend tonight’s community forum on the lodging tax proposal, or Referendum 2B as it will appear on Tuesday’s general election ballot.
“Any time you go into an election, you need to know what you’re voting on,” said Jones, a member of the organization supporting the lodging tax, Progress for Craig.
The community forum is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St. The meeting is open to the public.
The purpose of the meeting is simple, Jones said.
“It’s just so when (voters) see 2B on the ballot, they understand the parameters not from hearsay, but from factual data,” he said.
Jones said Progress for Craig seeks to correct misconceptions in the community.
“There are questions concerning the allocation of the dollars — who it benefits,” he said
Referendum 2B proposes a 6.9-percent levy on forms of lodging within Craig city limits. The revenue that is collected from the tax will be distributed toward four goals, Jones said.
“The ballot measure has a specific allocation of 3 percent to the promotion of tourism, and 3 percent to capital improvements,” Jones said.
Of the remaining .9 percent, .6 percent will go to the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, and .3 percent will go to the beautification of Craig, Jones said.
Jones said the biggest misconception in the community about 2B is in regard to the capital improvement allocation and the goal to build a “multi-purpose” facility for trade shows, conferences and sporting events.
Jones said there is widespread belief that the facility will be a community recreation center.
“We need to clear the air on that,” Jones said. “This is not a backdoor approach to get a rec center, it’s a multipurpose center.”
Jones said the true percentage of the lodging tax, whether it is a 6.9-percent tax or a 14.05-percent tax, is a matter of voter confusion.
“The lodging tax is only 6.9 percent, and it’s a 5-percent increase from the current lodging tax of 1.9 percent,” he said. “All the other things that add up to the 14 percent are taxes that have been in place and will be in place for years to come.”
Those taxes, Jones said, include city, county and state sales taxes.
The 5-percent increase won’t have much bearing on visitors, Jones said. As an example, Jones cited the lodging tax on a $90 room rate.
“Right now, with the 1.9 percent (lodging tax), they’re paying $1.71,” he said. “At 6.9 percent, that number goes up to $6.21. So that gives us a change of $4.50.”
Jones said the tax increase won’t impact long-term visitors, like construction workers, because guests who stay more than 30 days are exempt from the lodging tax.
Elk Run Inn proprietors Randy and Cindy Looper said they will attend today’s forum, but they’re not planning a presentation.
“We’ll be there just to answer questions,” Randy said.
The Loopers said they agree with the goals of the lodging tax, but disagree with the numbers.
“Everything they say, I agree with 100 percent,” Randy said. “What I have a problem with is the 6.9 percent.
“It’s too high. They’re going for too much.”
Randy said separating the lodging tax from the larger tax bill is tantamount to splitting hairs.
“They’re talking about the 6.9,” Randy said. “We’re talking about the total tax. People are not paying 6.9 percent, people are paying 14.05 percent.”
Looper said he has researched total taxes for lodging in other parts of the state and, if Referendum 2B passes, downtown Denver will be the only place in Colorado that charges visitors more in taxes than Craig.
Regarding the exemption for long-term visitors, Cindy said that construction workers would, in fact, pay the taxes.
“They go home on weekends,” she said. “It has to be 30 consecutive days.”
Also, in order to qualify for the exemption, long-term guests must pay for 30 days or more in advance.
“I’ve never had anyone pay for 30 days in advance,” Randy said.
The bigger picture, the Loopers said, is the impact the tax increase will have on “mom-and-pop” hotels.
Randy asserts that companies who send workers to Craig won’t pay the tax increases, particularly for long stays.
“For example, I have a crew in now that if they were paying the lodging tax, they would be paying $780 more just in tax,” he said.
Randy said if companies balk at the increases, the larger chain hotels will lower prices. In turn, the Loopers would have to lower their rates to stay competitive.
“The way you survive at that point, as a small mom-and-pop, is you don’t have staff, you do it yourself, you suck as much money out of this place as you can, you put nothing back into the community, you put nothing back into the hotel,” Randy said.
Progress for Craig member Dave DeRose said the proposed tax increase is a step toward helping mom-and-pop hotels.
“When we opened the Hampton Inn and the Candlewood Suites, we added 41 percent to our room capacity in Craig, and we didn’t add any more travelers into our market,” DeRose said.
DeRose said raising the tax and reinvesting the money into tourism is the simplest way to reduce vacancies in Craig.
As for the upcoming vote, DeRose said he was unsure how it would pan out.
“We don’t really have a great polling system in Craig,” DeRose joked. “I think it’ll be a very close vote.
“Some people don’t want to raise taxes no matter what it takes, and I understand that.”