COLUMBIA — The Columbia Hospitality Association has an alternative to a city proposal to increase the local lodging tax to 7 percent to finance improvements to Columbia Regional Airport's terminal building.
The tax on hotel and motel rooms in Columbia is now 4 percent. Rather than boosting it to 7 percent, the hospitality association recommends increasing it to only 5 percent. It would funnel the increased revenue to the airport along with half the money the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau now places in its tourism development fund. As it stands, one-quarter of the total lodging tax revenue goes to that fund.
The hospitality association represents the majority of the city's hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns.
"We feel it is fundamentally wrong to burden one industry with the expansion and renovation of the Columbia Regional Airport terminal," said Heather Hargrove, immediate past president of the hospitality association. "In a struggling and still recovering economy, we stand to lose business when competing for conventions and state bids due to overall rates being too high."
The idea of raising the lodging tax to 7 percent to finance a bond issue that would pay for the terminal renovation first arose during a City Council discussion Jan. 3. A proposed addition to the south side of the existing terminal, recommended by the Columbia Regional Airport Advisory Board, would cost an estimated $17 million.
Hargrove said the hospitality association presented the alternative to a Columbia Chamber of Commerce task force two weeks ago, but there is no timeline for when it will present the idea to the city.
The proposal would be subject to approval by the City Council and a citywide vote.
Megan McConachie, spokeswoman for Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said that while the bureau is funded by the lodging tax, officials there don't know how an increase might affect the bureau until it is clear what will go on the ballot. It does not have an official position on the issue.
Toni Messina, public communications director for the city, said that if there is community interest in looking at several sources of revenue other that the lodging tax for these improvements, then that could be up for local debate.
Hargrove said the hospitality association agrees the airport needs work.
"CHA supports the city in its endeavors in looking to make improvements at to the airport," Hargrove said. "We want to compromise and work with them."
Hargrove also said CHA highly protested state legislation that would allow the city to put an increase greater than 1 percent on the ballot.
State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, is co-sponsor of the bill that would authorize the vote. He said that while it passed through the Missouri House of Representatives, he thinks there will be no action in the Senate until city officials and representatives of Columbia hotels reach agreement.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.