By Seann McAnally
City officials plan to put a “transient guest tax” on a ballot for voter approval, possibly as soon as August.
Earlier this year, Aldermen Jim Crain and now-Mayor Steve Dennis asked city staff to look into establishing such a tax, often called a “hotel/motel tax” in other cities.
Until recently, said Joe Gall, city attorney, only charter cities – that is, cities ruled by a local constitution, such as Lee’s Summit or Belton – could establish such a tax. But in recent years, he said, state legislation has been written that allows non-charter cities to impose such a tax. The tax would take the form of a 5% tax on hotel and motel stays in the city limits. Cory Smith, city administrator, opined it could raise as much as $50,000 - $60,000 in the first six months.
The rub is that the tax must be used to “promote tourism.”
But both Crain and Alderman Joe Runions said they’ve been assured by state officials that local boards can be “creative” with the money.
“If we have a city full of pot holes, that’s no good for tourism,” Crain said.
Smith said the tax shouldn’t affect most people in Grandview, other than occasions when family members visit and decide to stay in one of the city’s two local hotels.
“Most cities around us have the same or higher room taxes in place, so it should not place (the hotels) at any disadvantage,” Smith said. “This is open-ended, but it does say to support tourism.”
Dennis said it’s important to understand clearly what can and can’t be done with the revenues.
“It’s not like we’re trying to be disingenuous about this, but we do want the broadest possible legal option,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things we could do in this city that fall under the heading of promoting tourism.”
Dennis hinted at the potential for more hotels in Grandview in the near future, and said the tax could be a big windfall for the city.
According to city documents, the city of Independence gets about $1 million a year from its transient guest tax, and funds a Tourism Department with it. Blue Springs, meanwhile, uses it to pay debt associated with the Adams Pointe Conference Center. Kansas City uses its tax to pay for the TWA Dome and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.