WILMINGTON — A third and final vote on how hotel taxes are distributed passed Wilmington council 6-1 and became law Thursday.
As written, the ordinance will give the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau 50 percent of the city’s hotel lodging taxes. Of the remaining 50 percent, 0.5 percent shall go to the general fund for administrative costs, and the remaining 49.5 percent shall be administered by council “to support local governmental and/or non-profits, quality of life and economic development.”
Previously the city gave 90 percent of bed taxes to the CVB and kept 10 percent for administrative costs.
Council members have said that the CVB could apply for those retained funds. If the CVB didn’t receive any of them, it would represent a $50,000 loss, according to the CVB’s executive director, Debbie Stamper.
Council member Joe Spicer, a city-appointed representative on the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, continued his dissenting vote, saying it would negatively impact tourism and only create duplicative efforts from other agencies.
“The last two readings, we’ve heard from folks who have benefited from the convention bureau, heard from folks who’ve said this is a bad idea, we’ve heard from experts that have told us how tourism impacts the county, we’ve heard from a prior council member saying what the intent was,” Spicer said. “We’ve always known we had the right to change it, but I still don’t believe there’s a reason to change it.”
Spicer said no one has presented a plan to determine who receives funds, and he asked if council was “going to do this to the other boards as well? Or are we just going to pick on the convention bureau?”
“There’s I guess a feeling of mistrust that council is exercising oversight that it has the authority to exercise and, frankly, the responsibility,” said council member Matt Purkey, a member of the judiciary committee that presented the legislation. “We have a responsibility to manage every single dollar that comes across our screen, so to speak.”
Purkey said the creation of a new line item “is a move to transparency … so that this (money) doesn’t magically disappear.”
Purkey also said the finance committee will prepare those appropriations along with the budget and that all council members will then weigh in on the spending, including the hotel tax distributions.
“I just think it’s a no-brainer and it’s a great thing for us,” said Purkey.
“I am totally in favor of this, a hundred percent,” said Molly Dullea, owner of the General Denver. “My lodging taxes – the amount that I send in – have gone up as have other hotels.
“I want you to oversee that money please,” Dullea continued. “I expect that you do. It’s a tax. Every other tax that we get, somebody oversees this tax.”
Dullea said it is her expectation and her guests’ expectations that the tax is overseen and said “it should have been done all along.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.