Wichita Falls city leaders are giving a clearer picture of what repairs and improvements are needed to justify a possible increase in the hotel/motel tax. By increasing the Hotel Occupancy Tax, they hope to finally make improvements at Memorial Auditorium as well as MPEC facilities. After failing to have improvements paid for via last May’s bond election, this time around, the city is asking Wichitans to vote for a tax they won’t pay for.
Guests of hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts in Wichita Falls could be paying more in hotel occupancy tax. Both the city and the state collect taxes from room charges. Currently, the state rate is 6 % and the city rate is 7% for a combined hotel/motel tax rate of 13%. The city is considering an increase to 9% for the city rate, making the total rate 15 %.
“This is a way to do that without putting the burden on our citizens here through a tax rate increase for property taxes and puts it on visitors for the community,” Wichita Falls Deputy City Manager Jim Dockery said.
If you break down the math, it would mean a dollar extra on a $50 room, or $3 on a $150 room. That money would help pay for improvements such as MPEC roof repairs, as well as lighting and sound improvements for Memorial Auditorium’s performance hall.
“We own them. We need to maintain them and keep them up to a standard that is acceptable for people coming to the community to use these facilities and our own citizens use those facilities as well,” Dockery said.
And though it would be a tax, absorbed only by hotel and motel users, the Wichita Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Lindsay Barker said unlike 2018’s city bond election, officials want to use as much time as possible to make sure the public understands what they’ll be asked to vote on.
“We’ll be able to get out and educate and allow us some time for that. That’s why we want to plan ahead,” Barker said.
But if voters turn the proposal down, Dockery believes it wouldn’t be good for tourism or citizens.
“The facilities could suffer. We could have to look for other sources, which are probably going to impact our local tax-payer, one way or another.”
If all goes as planned, this issue will go to a vote on November 5th. If passed, the increase would bring in an estimated $550,000 annually, which would be used to pay debt service for about $6 million in needed repairs and improvements.