City seeks to increase tourism tax

• Special election to be held

A motion to increase Alva’s tourism or lodging tax from five percent to eight percent passed by one vote during Monday’s city council meeting. To take effect, the increase will require approval by registered voters in Alva.

Melinda Barton, chairman of the Alva Tourism Tax Committee, told the council the first tourism tax was approved by a citizen vote in 2000. She said both Waynoka and Guymon collect an eight percent lodging tax. The tax applies to short-term stays in hotels, motels and other short-term rentals.

Barton said during the oil boom, the tourism tax brought in around $460,000 a year. This year, the tax came in around $150,000. To continue to provide assistance to established tourism events in Alva as well as encouraging new events, she said, the tax must be increased. She reminded listeners the tax is not paid by hotels but by their guests.

Magen Lehr, a board member of the Alva Chamber of Commerce, expressed gratitude for what the tourism tax has meant for that organization. She said increasing the tax will provide the opportunity for the growth of events.

Councilmember Joe Parsons said he would abstain when voting because his family has been in the motel business for 20 years. He said he didn’t think it was acceptable to ask those booking rooms to pay 17.25 percent in taxes (state, county, local and tourism taxes). He said that was “pretty steep for anything.”

Councilmember Troy Brooks agreed, “It doesn’t really say we’re glad to have you here.”

City Attorney Drew Cunningham asked Brooks if he’d ever decided not to book at a hotel in Oklahoma City because of tourism tax. Brooks said he generally looks for less expensive options outside the main metro area.

Councilmember Matt Adair said, “I would love to see what the citizens of Alva say about it.” He made the motion to approve Resolution 2024-013 calling for a special election to increase the tax to eight percent. James Hoffman provided a second. The resolution was approved by a 4-3 vote with Adair, Hoffman, Gail Swallow and Greg Bowman voting in favor. Brooks and Garrett Lahr voted no, and Parsons abstained.

The earliest the tourism tax vote could appear on the ballot would be Aug. 27. Oklahoma City will be voting Aug. 27 to increase their lodging tax from 5.5 percent to 9.25 percent.

 

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