Mayor Andy Ezard requested an emergency second reading to vote on the request from Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau President Brittany Henry, who made the request during Monday’s City Council meeting.
Henry requested the city increase the tax from five to eight percent. It had been three percent when it was last raised in July 2008.
Henry pointed out that most major downstate Illinois cities have hotel-motel taxes ranging from six to nine percent, and that this would help the CVB be more competitive in promoting Jacksonville.
“We need to promote outside of a 50-mile radius to bring people into Jacksonville. This is going to allow us opportunities that we haven’t had before. Right now, we’re doing the exact marketing that we need to, but we want to have a stronger presence, and that stronger presence is going to cost us more money,” she says.
“We want more presence in Iowa and Missouri. I want to build a stronger CVB, and a stronger organization, and we needed that marketing presence and that’s why we need that increase. With the budget impasse, marketing’s expensive.”
Henry stresses this tax increase would not be felt by Jacksonville residents.
“I cannot reiterate it enough. It is a room tax to the visitor, it is not a tax to us. The citizens of Jacksonville actually benefit,” explains Henry. “The more revenue we bring in, we actually save $1,300 a year on our household taxes because of tourism. So, this is again, not a tax to us as Jacksonville citizens. It’s a tax on the room for city hotels.”
Henry told aldermen business has been booming in Jacksonville hotels, indicating most of them are close to selling out regularly between Sundays and Thursdays.
Ezard explains he asked for the emergency vote because aldermen are only scheduled to meet once more this year.
“I certainly support a tax increase in terms of our hotel-motel tax. Why I brought up the emergency clause is, I’d like to have this tied up in the year 2015 and give the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau that first step to a bright 2016,” says Ezard.
“They do a tremendous job, very visible in our community, and I think it would serve Jacksonville and our City Council well to put that on as two readings on our December 14th meeting, and our last meeting of the year to tie that up,” he adds.
Other action from Monday night’s meeting included the passing of the first reading of the 2016 tax levy ordinance. The five percent increase represents about $279-thousand in revenue.
Aldermen passed a resolution to purchase playground equipment to be installed in Community Park. The city will contribute $25-thousand and get a matching amount from the local Elks Club.
The vote was unanimous, but alderwoman Lori Large Oldenettel expressed concern about the process in which the council was given information about the project, pointing out that the Kiwanis Club made a presentation to aldermen prior to announcing the toy they put up last summer.
Parks and Lakes chief Kelly Hall pointed out that he had given the information to all aldermen at the last meeting regarding the toy.
Aldermen passed a resolution authorizing a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and the Jacksonville Fire Fighter Association Local 637 for a three-year term.