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Oklahoma City Council holds public hearing for proposed hotel tax election

Oklahoma City Council is held at Oklahoma City Hall
Oklahoma City Council is held at Oklahoma City Hall.

Oklahoma City voters may soon decide the future of a potential hotel tax increase.

The Oklahoma City Council held a public hearing on Tuesday about a proposed citywide election to increase the hotel tax from 5.50% to 9.25%.

The hotel tax is charged to people who stay overnight in a hotel or rent a home-sharing property in Oklahoma City. City residents last approved a hotel tax increase in 2004. It overwhelmingly passed with 89.4% approval.

Four community members spoke at a public hearing in favor of the proposed hotel tax changes Tuesday morning.

Jason Clark, general manager of the Ambassador Hotel in Midtown, said the tax increase will allow Oklahoma City to grow and appeal to more visitors.

“We have a chance to be better at promoting our city, promoting the strengths that we have to offer to large conventions and events that will in turn create jobs and bring taxes to our city for the good of us all,” Clark said.

As part of the proposal, how revenues from the tax increase would change.

  • 75% of tax revenues would go to promote tourism.
  • 13% would be designated for an event sponsorship fund.
  •  6.7% would go to the State Fairgrounds for capital improvements.
  • 5% would be used for capital improvements on the city’s new convention center.

Jeff Penner, executive director of the Greater OKC Metro Hotel Association, said the funding toward the State Fairgrounds and the conventional center capital improvements will enhance the visitor experience.

“The event sponsorship support is a win-win for all. It is the perfect mechanism to bring phenomenal multiplier dollars into the Oklahoma City economy, resulting in general fund dollars to be used in your individual wards,” Penner said.

Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, said the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Marathon rely on funding from outside tax dollars.

“I think it’s time we join together and help lift our city to the next level,” Watkins said.

Brittani Hunter, executive director of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, also spoke in favor of the increase. The Oklahoma City Adventure District is home to Science Museum Oklahoma, Remington Park, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Gardens, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and many other businesses.

“Visitors represent a significant place of business for our attractions, restaurants and events. Without strong visitation, these large tourism employers in our district cannot sustain,” Hunter said.

City council is expected to vote on the proposal at a meeting next week. If the ordinance passes, a citywide election will be held on Aug. 27.

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Anusha Fathepure is a summer intern at KOSU as part of the Inasmuch Foundation's Community Fellowship Class.
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