City leaders spread word about hotel occupancy tax

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)— It’s the tax you don’t pay. That’s the message behind the hotel occupancy tax, expected to be put before voters this fall.

City of Wichita Falls officials are trying to get the word out, advocating voters approve the tax that would be passed on only to those staying in Wichita Falls hotels.

City representatives have only until August to advocate for the tax, before an election is called. After then, they can only speak on the facts, similar to the policy implemented during May 2018’s bond elections.

Originally from Holliday and having lived in some of it’s bigger sister cities, Lindsay Barker wanted to live in Wichita Falls.

“I chose to come back here, because I think it’s a great place to be,” Barker said. “It’s affordable, it is easy to get around when you drive in traffic in those big cities, you appreciate our commute and our cost of living.”

Now the Wichita Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau Director, Barker said there’s a positive vibe in the city.

“I think there is this push to attract younger workers and keep the workers we have,” Barker said.

In addition to boosting tourism.

“Our visitor spending in 2018 in Wichita County was over $200 million and tourism supports over 3,000 jobs here locally,” Barker said.

With tourism comes hotels. That’s why city leaders hope voters will approve the hotel occupancy tax, adding, for example, three dollars to a $150 hotel room in town.

That money collected annually, estimated at $550,000, would help pay for desperately needed repairs to the MPEC and Memorial Auditorium.

“Yes. I’d vote yes for that,” Wichita Falls resident Ricky Peace said. “It would improve the city.”

But, Wilbert Thompson Lewis, another Wichita Falls resident, isn’t sold on the HOT tax.

“Right now, people are coming to Wichita Falls for enjoyment. They’re not coming here to pay for the auditorium,” Lewis said.

Though numerous other Texas cities impose this tax, Lewis expects it would be a turnoff to city visitors, staying in hotels. As to where he suggests needed repair funds to come from… “We gotta go back and figure it out.”

In the coming months, the city will find out if in fact, voters are hot or not for the hotel occupancy tax.

An ordinance setting up a vote is set for August. Voters would then be able to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in November.

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