No candidates state they oppose hotel tax
At very least, town and county hopefuls support asking voters if they want 2 percent room levy.
By Cara Rank, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 6, 2010
Candidates for town and county offices either say they support levying a lodging tax or putting the question to voters.
In an insert in today’s News&Guide, of the 11 people running for Teton County commissioner, Jackson town councilor or mayor, none
opposes the measure.
The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce collected the information and published it in its quarterly insert.
Mayoral candidates agreed the lodging tax should be adopted.
“I support the immediate adoption of the proposed 2-cent lodging tax,” Franz Camenzind said. “It is the appropriate revenue source
for Jackson because we, a community of about 20,000 residents, have to provide the infrastructure for an additional [20,000 to 30,000] visitors during our busiest season. These extra costs should be borne in part by our visitors.”
Camenzind’s opponent in the mayoral race, incumbent Mark Barron, agreed, calling the tax “smart business.”
“I support it because visitor services, such as pathways and START, and the town and county general funds can use this revenue
stream,” he said.
On Nov. 2, voters will be asked whether they want to tax valley hotel rooms. At the proposed 2 percent, the levy would generate $3.5
million annually, of which $2.1 million, or 60 percent, would have to be spent on promotions, and $1.05 million, or 30 percent, on visitor services. The remaining $350,000, or 10 percent would go to town and county general funds.
Town and county leaders have been eyeing the tax as a way to make up for lost revenues due to declining sales tax, property tax and
funding from the state. Though they considered a general sales tax hike, leaders abandoned that idea, saying such a levy would affect
A joint powers board, composed of representatives from the lodging and tourism community and people appointed by the council and
commission, would oversee how the 60 percent dedicated to promotion would be spent.
The 30 percent for visitor services would be split between the county and town based on how much was collected in each jurisdiction.
The 10 percent for the general fund would also get divided based on collections.
In today’s insert, Town Council incumbents Bob Lenz and Melissa Turley did not say whether they support the tax. Instead, they said
they voted in favor of putting the question to voters to decide.
Turley said doing so “is responsible leadership.” Voters could then decide whether they want to use the new revenue stream or if they
want reduced service levels, she said.
Challengers Ray Elser and Michael Pruett said they support the tax but with some conditions.
Elser said he would support the tax if the visitor impacts portion focused on START and pathways.
“Though I am concerned about growing programs that are dependent on a source of funds that sunsets every four years,” he
said. “What happens to those programs if the lodging tax is voted down?”
Pruett also emphasized spending to enable START to offer more bus stops and free ridership. The lodging tax would offer an added
revenue that would not impact residents, he said.
Candidates in the county commissioners race were similarly divided.
Republicans Scott Anderson and Paul Vogelheim and Democrat Ben Ellis said they support the tax.
“I believe it is the best way for local government to fund things like pathways and to allow the community to promote its winter and off-season tourism,” Anderson said.
Vogelheim, an incumbent, said the tax would offer fiscal accountability, because tourists would contribute to the services they use, and
government would control 40 percent of the revenues.
Ellis, also an incumbent, agreed with those sentiments. The 2-cent tax would help pay for public infrastructure and services to
accommodate visitors, such as START and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, he said.
“Currently, most of these public services are funded through town and county property and sale tax,” he said.
With a lodging tax, the burden would shift away from general revenue, and visitors would shoulder some of those costs, he said.
Incumbent Hank Phibbs and Republican Peter Moyer said they support putting the question to voters, but Moyer also said he would
prefer broader purposes for the tax dollars.