Friday, February 08, 2002

Tax called too high for suburbs


More urged from city lodgers

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin wants to shift the burden of paying for an expanded Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center to those businesses that will benefit from it the most — downtown hotels and motels.

        Mr. Dowlin says the funding plan put together by fellow commissioner Todd Portune and Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken will be too burdensome for hotels and motels in the suburbs.

FUNDING PLANS
• Current hotel/motel tax rates in Hamilton County:
    Inside Cincinnati ....... 1.5 percent.
    Outside Cincinnati ....... 3.0 percent.
• Portune/Luken proposal:
    Inside Cincinnati ....... Increase to 3 percent.
    Outside Cincinnati ....... Increase to 7.5 percent.
• Dowlin proposal:
    Inside Cincinnati ....... Increase to 9 percent.
    Outside Cincinnati ....... Increase to 4.5 percent.
(All guests pay 6 percent sales tax on hotel rooms.)
        A former mayor of Sharonville, Mr. Dowlin's plan would hike the citywide hotel/motel tax to 9 percent — an increase of 7.5 percentage points — while boosting the county tax to 4.5 percent, a 1.5 percentage-point increase.

        That would mean a lodger in downtown Cincinnati would pay a 19.5 percent tax rate, after the 6 percent sales tax is tacked on.

        Mr. Dowlin will host a meeting on the issue at the Sharonville Convention Center on Feb. 19.

        “To date, the planning of the convention-center expansion has been discussed only behind closed doors among politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats,” Mr. Dowlin said. “This has not been an open process and I think it needs to be an open process.”

        Michel Sheer, president of the Greater Cincinnati Hotel-Motel Association, said many members of the public were involved in the financing plan announced two weeks ago by Mr. Luken and Mr. Portune.

        Mr. Sheer said a 19.5 percent tax rate in the city simply would not work.

        “Our view is that 16.5 percent is tough,” Mr. Sheer said, speaking for his association. “We understand the value of expansion and we understand it's important for Cincinnati to bet on its future.

        “The hotel association is prepared to do that at 16.5 percent. But that certainly is a tough number for us.”

        Mr. Portune doesn't think a tax rate approaching 20 percent in the city is feasible either. Mr. Luken declined to answer questions about Mr. Dowlin's plan, saying only that his plan will be considered by City Council next week.

        “I think it's unrealistic and unworkable,” Mr. Portune said of Mr. Dowlin's plan. “I think it far exceeds what the city hotels would have the ability to absorb.”

        Hotels and motels outside of Cincinnati brought in 52 percent of the hotel/motel business in the county in 2000. The cities of Sharonville ($1 million) and Blue Ash ($713,000) were the two largest money makers.

        Both of those cities would have a tax rate of 16.5 percent — the same as Cincinnati — if the Luken-Portune plan is enacted. Green Township's rate would increase to 15.5 percent, while 10 communities, including Norwood, Mariemont and Colerain Township, would see rates jump to 13.5 percent.

               



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