Increased lodging tax proposed to fund new airport terminal

If approved, the current tax would increase from 4 to 7 percent.

A tax increase could mean a new terminal for Columbia Regional Airport.

A lodging tax increase was proposed at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in order to fund plans for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport, which is estimated to cost around $17 million, according to a report.

If passed, the proposal would raise the lodging tax from 4 percent to 7 percent. The proposed increase would bring in $1.4 million in revenue to the city, in addition to the current $1.9 million the current lodging tax rate already brings in.

The council passed a motion to move this proposal to the state legislature for approval. If approved, the city would have permission to put the tax increase up for a vote at a future date.

Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association member Mike Kelly said increasing lodging taxes always has a negative impact.

“There is a direct correlation to occupancy as you raise taxes,” Kelly said.

Columbia Hospitality Association President Jevon Jerke said the organization opposes the tax increase because of the current economic climate and stiff competition Columbia faces for statewide events, such as the Show-Me State Games.

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said there will be a lot of discussion before any tax increase is approved.

The council also approved two bills that continue the existing contract with the Columbia Humane Society to fund their operations, despite a request to table the two bills for 60 days from a recently formed group, No Kill Columbia. The group is a chapter of the nationwide organization, No Kill Nation, and advocated for reforms within the local Humane Society.

The organization said it would like to see the Humane Society expand its hours, allow more animals to be impounded at home and find better ways to encourage residents to take their animals to a veterinarian. These reforms are an attempt to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized.

The two approved bills provide funding primarily for animal housing and resources to help low-income residents spay and neuter their animals.

Ann Peters, who spoke independently but wore a No Kill Columbia T-shirt, said Columbia needs to think of animals as consumers.

“Every animal that walks out of that shelter is a consumer,” Peters said. “ I think we need to do everything we can to get our animals adopted.”

Mayor Bob McDavid said he appreciated the group’s ideas but felt the concerns were operational and should be presented at an alternative time when it wasn’t urgent for the bills to be passed to keep the Humane Society funded.

“Hopefully we can incorporate some of these ideas in the next budget cycle,” Schmidt said.

The council also heard a report from Greyhound Lines Inc. to enter into a 10-year contract with the city to begin using the Wabash bus station downtown. The council unanimously passed a motion to have city staff work out a deal with the company.

Greyhound’s addition should provide the city with $54,000 of revenue with the potential for additional revenue if ridership increases, according to the report.

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