When it comes to building things like stadiums, Colosseums or convention centers, Indiana and many communities across the country have started adopting special fees that help pay for projects. Daviess County is watching it too.
“This is the big dream of financing a convention center or a reception room or a meeting place where we can have functions with large groups,” said Daviess County Tourism Commission President DeWayne Shake. “This is something we really miss now.”
In most communities, those special taxes take the form of taxes on food and drinks or on innkeepers in hotels, although some places have different names for those.
“I was traveling across the country and would be shocked by the amount of special taxes in the rooms,” said Daviess County Council President Kent Norris. “Many hotels would call it the stadium tax. That’s how they financed these things. In some cases, it would be up to 18-20 percent. “
There are currently 31 cities and counties in Indiana collecting taxes on food and drinks. Most of them account for 1%, although Orange County and Marion County have rates of 2%. In Daviess County, there is no tax on food and drink and there seems to be no plans to start one.
“I haven’t heard of anyone mentioning a food and drink tax,” said Shake.
And even if they did mention it, there seems to be little chance of it being implemented.
“This would greatly affect the local population,” said Norris. “People go out to eat here. At this point, I am not in favor of a tax on food and drink. “
However, the county has a 5% tax on innkeepers, which increases by about $ 33,000 a year to help promote travel and tourism in the county. Daviess County currently has just over 300 motels and hotel rooms which are full about 75% of the time. There were times, like when I-69 and Duke Power Plant were under construction, when the occupancy rate was even higher. The hotel business is currently booming with a 72-room Hampton Inn under construction on Washington’s south side. The $ 7.5 million project is slated to open later this year.
Over the past two years, local leaders have pushed to increase the fees of Daviess County inn holders from 5% to 7% with 2% more for building a local convention or visitor center.
“It’s amazing what a mere 2% would do with the dollars raised,” said Shake. “It adds up very quickly. It would be a very small increase, but what that small increase will probably mean is along the line of building a visitor center for Daviess County.”
While no one likes tax increases, officials point out that it is a tax that should have little or no impact on local residents.
“This will have no impact on the local population,” said Shake. “It’s the people who stay in our hotels who pay for this. They are the visitors to our community.”
“For the most part it has no impact on local residents,” added Norris. “It has an impact on contract construction workers from out of town who work at GPC or at power plants. The money would come mainly from people from out of town.”
The proposed increase was presented several times to county officials and each time they supported it. “All of our county officials have signed up,” said Shake. “We hit a state obstacle.”
About two thirds of Indiana counties have innkeeper fees. Most are at 5%, but the counties Allen, Marion, St. Joseph and Vigo are all higher.
This means that it can be raised, but so far state lawmakers will not support it for Daviess County. “No politician wants to be known to support a tax hike,” said Shake. “This must overcome the state and this is the obstacle we have to go through now. It is frustrating because it is something that really needs to be done. We have to find a way to get this two percent somehow. “
“It’s difficult for the state to get approvals for this, but we want to get it substantially on the state house agenda for approval and see if we can do it,” said Norris.
Multiple organizations, elected local officials and individuals have tried to convince the legislator to support the proposed increase and continued push. “Our new executive director Joe Morris has some good state-level contacts and this is one of his missions since he took up the position,” said Shake.
Leaders say everyday residents can make a difference in moving forward with the proposal. “I hope we can all push so hard to get through,” said Shake. “The best way to do this is to talk to your local state representatives and tell them how much it is needed and what it would mean for us.”
For Shake, the additional fee paid by visitors to help build a new convention or visitor center is something that should already happen.
“This is something we need,” he said. “Passing this is child’s play for me.”