The Lebanon City Council is doubling the tax on hotel and motel rooms guests pay in an effort to generate more revenue to support efforts to increase tourism.
The current rate will double to 4% after Tuesday unanimous vote. This is in addition to a 5% county tax and a 9.25% state tax on hotel and motel rooms.
Many hotel managers feel that the increase in revenue isn't worth the potential damper on business.
"Lebanon hotels already have some of the highest combined taxes in the country," said Jim Miskulin, the manager at Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, which has been operating for a little over a year. "What does it do for Lebanon? I'd like to see exactly where this revenue is going and how it's going to help the city as a whole."
Miskulin feels that the tax rate will drive away the hotel guests.
"It's going to kill the occupancy in the long run," Miskulin said. "We already have to charge more on account of the tax rate. People want to get mad at us about how high the tax is even though hotel managers
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have no control over it."
Kevin Kurani, who manages Knights Inn, agreed with Miskulin.
"If you look at the hotel tax in Lebanon, you'll see that it's already one of the highest in the country," Kurani said. "This will certainly hurt business. People will just find cheaper hotels in other cities to stay in."
The current 2% tax goes into the city's general fund. Ash said the additional 2% will go towards increasing tourism in Lebanon.
According to Stuart Lawson, the accounting administrator for the city of Lebanon, the current tax rate generates around $400,000 in revenue per year and he expects doubling the rate will double the revenue to $800,000.
"One thing we've discussed but haven't decided on is building a sports complex in Lebanon," Ash said. "A sports complex would bring people from all over the state for ball tournaments. And those people would hopefully be staying at our hotels as well."
City officials have been discussing the need for a sports complex for years and have attempted to negotiate the purchase of land in several different areas on Stumpy Lane throughout 2019, but no purchase has yet been made. The land is a three-minute drive from the I-40 exit, making it ideal for tourism.
Preliminary sketches for this sports complex include soccer, softball and baseball fields, which could draw in tournaments for competitive teams from outside of Wilson County.
"The fair is another thing that draws people in from outside of Lebanon and could use more funding from the city," Ash said. "Anything that draws people in is what the revenue will be spent on."
Helen McPeak, the executive director of Wilson County Promotions, the organization that runs the fair, said there are a lot of different places the new revenue could be used.
"We've been wanting to get this Agricultural Learning Center running year-round for people to come and learn about agriculture," McPeak said. "We could also use the revenue for events at Fiddlers Grove."