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Creation of Tourism Advisory Board Proposed for Lamar

 

2009 World Series, Sand and Sage Fair and Carnival

2009 World Series, Sand and Sage Fair and Carnival

An unofficial petition for a tourism-oriented lodging tax is being circulated among Lamar residents in an effort to provide a headcount for the Lamar City Council. The proposal for the new ordinance, which is being promoted by local citizens, offers some similarities to the current Lodging Tax and some important differences.

The main similarity is that the tax only applies to a rented motel or hotel room in Lamar. It is simply a user tax paid when a customer spends a night at a motel or similar accommodation in Lamar.  The current lodging tax, at 2%, applies to motels in Prowers County.  The proposed tax, at 5%, only impacts Lamar lodging businesses.

Funds for the current tax are controlled by the county and issued through the State of Colorado and carry some restrictions on how they can be used by the Lodging Panel. Funds from the new tax would remain locally controlled by the City of Lamar and allow more freedom for use by the newly created Tourist Advisory Board.  The Lodging Panel ordinance prohibits the purchase of material goods.  This has been a grey area for the Panel which now basically funds advertising and contract fees and costs when a request has been presented to them.  The new ordinance would provide for a salary for an events coordinator, someone who would be charged with attracting conventions and other events to Lamar to help augment the local tourism trade.  The more visitors to the community, the more money is spent on motels, restaurants, retail shops, food and fuel.  The funds could also be used to refurbish, build or buy materials from office supplies or to hire part-time help.

Pat Palmer, President of the Prowers Lodging Panel, explained that the funding could be used in different ways to improve the community. “We could purchase materials to keep the steam engine from hemorrhaging any more orange foam,” he said, referring to the train on display at the city’s Welcome Center, which is in need of cosmetic repairs.  The Lodging Panel’s ordinance prohibits use of funds in that manner.  Another eyesore Palmer pointed out was a welcoming sign, or half of a welcoming sign, south of Lamar near the Spreading Antlers Golf Course.   It’s been weather beaten for several years, to the point that only half the sign remains for northbound motorists on Highway 287.  While local municipal officials realize the need for such improvements, they are not always high on a list of priorities or have been funded in city or county budgets.  The funds from the new tax could help shore up the shortfall.

These types of taxes are common to almost every community or county in the nation. The motel/hotel room tax for Dodge City, Kansas is 18%, while the tax in Denver is 10.5% according to an internet search.  The Prowers Lodging Tax Panel, based on annual room rentals, earns about $100,000 a year to help promote events for the county.  Proponents of the new tax ordinance estimate that at 5%, the new board would have around $250,000 dollars for local improvements which would cover the cost of a full-time events coordinator and affiliated expenses and at no cost to Lamar residents unless they rented a motel room.

It was noted there was resistance to the first proposed lodging tax which was rejected by local voters. The second attempt was successful and since its creation, the Lodging Tax has raised at least $500,000 to spend for local events which help attract tourists to the communities in Prowers County.   The Lamar City Council will hold a public hearing on June 12th for the referred ordinance to listen to comments for or against the proposal.  If approved, the council will move to have the question placed on the November 7th ballot for voter approval.
By Russ Baldwin

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Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyFeaturedHot TopicsTourismTransportation

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