Columbia: Lodging tax could fund airport upgrades

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A new report shows Columbia could seek voter approval to raise the hotel tax in order to fund a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport.

Mayor Bob McDavid and several city officials and business leaders have called for a new terminal, saying it's needed to accommodate the extra passengers when flights between Columbia and Orlando (Fla.) International Airport begin Nov. 20.

The Columbia Missourian (http://bit.ly/O59pn2) reported that an architectural firm has estimated the cost of a terminal renovation at $17.1 million.

A report from City Manager Mike Matthes said Missouri cities like Columbia are authorized to impose a hotel tax of up to 7 percent to fund the "promotion, operation and development of tourism." The report also says the city could also legally levy a fee on each occupied hotel room.

Opposition to the tax increase comes from the Columbia Hospitality Association, which represents 22 Columbia hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.

"Increasing the lodging tax from 4 to 7 percent should be avoided at all costs because of economic repercussions to the city," said Heather Hargrove, a member and former president of the association. "It could lessen our ability to attract visitors."

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, a supporter of raising the hotel tax, said the city probably would issue bonds to pay for the terminal. The hotel tax would pay off the bonds over many years.

"We haven't had an increase in a number of years," Kespohl said, adding that the tax will mostly be paid by nonresidents.

Last month, the City Council approved the appropriation of $50,000 to start designing a new terminal. City officials have also considered paying for a new terminal by pursuing state and federal grants.


Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com

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