Starting Nov. 22, the tax on hotel rooms in Stark County will go up to 15.5 percent from 12.5 percent after Stark County commissioners approved the increase Wednesday afternoon.
CANTON Stark County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to double the county's hotel bed tax from 3 percent to 6 percent.
The total tax on hotel rooms in the county will increase to 15.5 percent from the current 12.5 percent on the room rate starting on Nov. 22. The tax is made up of the county tax, plus 3 percent for the city or township and the local sales tax of 6.5 percent.
The increase is expected to raise an additional $1.5 million a year for Visit Canton, which is also the Stark County Convention and Visitors' Bureau.
Allyson Bussey, Visit Canton's president, pledged to spend the money to boost her organization's budget to market Stark County tourist attractions to visitors by 75 percent and spend more to bid for and retain events. Visit Canton has also committed to share one-third of the additional revenue with ArtsinStark to improve the area's art offerings and promote them to out-of-county visitors. State law requires that the county's share of the hotel tax fund the local convention and visitors' bureau.
"Now it's time for travel and tourism to take an elevated role in the community," said Bussey before the vote. She in a presentation to commissioners Monday said that tourism accounts for one out every 13 jobs in the county.
Robb Hankins, president and CEO of ArtsinStark, told commissioners Wednesday before the vote, "we urge you to pass this today because if you do, it will put heads in beds. We need more day-trippers coming to Stark County, especially those visiting the Village."
Bussey said earlier this week that Visit Canton would have discussions with the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village on how much money from the hotel tax increase would go toward helping to fund development of the Village.
Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton said she had wanted the tax increase to take effect before the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football Championships coming up at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.
Commissioners had said that the bulk of the increase would be paid by people who don't live in Stark County, the new tax was still lower or roughly the same as several more populous Ohio counties and that they feel the increase is needed to promote the area. They said no one had expressed opposition to the increase, including local hotels whose representatives were consulted about the proposed increase in a meeting in July with Creighton and Bussey.
According to the resolution to hike the tax, Stark County commissioners first adopted a county lodging tax of 1.5 percent in 1980. They increased it to 3 percent in 1983.
Commissioners on Wednesday also approved a 10-year funding agreement between the county and Visit Canton where the county agreed to turn over revenue to the organization from the higher hotel tax each quarter. Visit Canton agreed to keep the commissioners informed about its efforts to spend the tax revenue to boost tourism, submit an annual budget and financial report and make its books available for auditing by the county on request.
The agreement explicitly says ArtsinStark will get one-third of the revenue from the tax increase or one-sixth of the revenue from the total county hotel tax generated outside of any Tourism Development District. That's expected to initially be about $500,000 a year.
Creighton recused herself from the vote on the agreement because she's a board member of ArtsinStark.
Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or email@example.com. Twitter: @rwangREP