Pilot Editorial

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Hotel/motel tax for Storm Lake: living with 'T-word'

With our local option sales tax and our school surtax on the books, there's not too many more options out there for hosing up a little more revenue. The hotel/motel tax under discussion by the Storm Lake City Council this week is one exception.

Supporting new taxation tends to be about as popular as being in favor of hepatitis, but as taxes go, this one is about as harmless as they come.

Generally speaking, you aren't hurting the folks who live in the community with this one. You're lifting a bit more from the tourists, and that can be justified with the old explanation that visitors do use the local streets, parks, public protection and cultural resources without chipping into the system to pay for them.

Of course, the motel operators will have to stomach any complaints and deal with the paperwork. They should get something out of it as well.

That's one reason we would strongly support a portion of the income going to the tourism program of the local chamber of commerce. If we are going to fleece the visitors a bit, we should at least use it to enhance the programs designed for them, as tourism is a much bigger part of the Storm Lake economy than almost anyone realizes.

The rest should go to, well, us. If we are ever going to get going with the community center and/or aquatic center that has been talked about

for who knows how long now, we are going to need some seed money.

Without the necessity for a supermajority vote or a mandatory sunset, this tax could produce some ongoing revenue - albeit unpredictable - to help maintain a recreation project of such a magnitude in the future as well.

Without a good use for the tax revenue, we would feel pretty iffy about the whole thing. But the need for a recreation center and a decent pool for our families in the future puts the question easily over the top in our minds.

And being able to boost our tourism program - from community image to bus tour promotions - is just icing on the cake.

The hotel/motel tax isn't a huge pile of money, but it is enough to make a difference to these two programs that involve our quality of life in Storm Lake.

The city council should put the matter out there for a public vote on the next general election ballot (it is not so time-crucial as to justify the money a special election would cost). That would put the tax in effect in January of 2003.

As we approach the Vision Iowa/CAT Fund with our recreation/aqua center idea - which we need to do soon - it will help to show that we have found a way to help operate such a program as a reality instead of a pipedream.

We hope the voters will support the hotel/motel tax when it comes to decision time. Nobody likes the T-word, but this time, the end will indeedd justify the means.