Broken Arrow Voters To Decide On Proposed Hotel Tax Increase
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma - Broken Arrow voters will decide on several tax issues, including an increase in the city's hotel tax. Supporters said it's designed to bring more business in, but others said it will only push businesses elsewhere.
It seems like a small proposal on next Tuesday's ballot, but it's an issue causing contentious debate between some hotel owners and the committee who proposed it.
"We don't know what the tax is for, they have not been transparent,” said Jeff Hartman with SJS Hospitality. “There's nothing in writing to say where this three percent additional tax is going."
It's a battle to bring in more business to Broken Arrow.
"Our opponents have claimed that there's been no transparency, but the reality is they are aware of this process of operation. The budget is made available to the public,” said Joe Cook with the Committee to Build a Better B.A.
Cook said they'll spend the money responsibly to promote Broken Arrow.
The tax is called the Hotel Occupancy Tax. It raises local hotel tax rates from four percent to seven percent, increasing the cost for hotel guests by three percent.
“A lot about the hotel industry people don't understand, people think it's just people driving down the highway and they pull off to the side and they spend the night. Well that's 25 percent of our business; the other 75 percent is corporate related,” Hartman said.
Corporations, Hartman feels, won't want to pay the increase when they could choose nearby Tulsa, who has a lesser tax rate.
Both sides said they want to do what's best for the Broken Arrow but disagree on how to do it.
"We recognize that these tax dollars are used for valuable programs, recruitment of conventions and visitors to our area and in addition to that we've seen some benefit from utilizing it for economic development just like our neighbors to the west,” Cook said.
Hartman said, "These two hotels run a little more than 100,000 visitors per year through our hotels. If that starts decreasing then those people coming to the hotels also eat in the restaurants, buy gas, buy items in our retails stores, that business will be driven away to Tulsa."
Voters head to the polls August 26th. If it passes it would make Broken Arrow's hotel tax higher than most surrounding cities.
The committee for a better Broken Arrow said the money will potentially go towards a new creative arts center, youth sports, local museums and other activities within the city.