City approves hotel/motel tax change

Donelle Pardee Whiting

In a reversal of an orignal vote, Washington City Council members approved an ordinance increasing the hotel/motel tax rate to 6 percent with a vote of 5-2.

The extra 1 percent will be invested with the Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for marketing and promoting tourism in Peoria and all surrounding communities.

During the Nov. 3 council meeting, the ordinance failed to pass by a 4-3 vote. Jim Gee, Don Brubaker, Gene Schneider and Dave Dingledine voted against the increase. Jim Newman was absent. Todd Clanin, Al Howerter and Bob Brucks voted for the ordinance.

Mayor Gary Manier said that prior to the Nov. 3 vote, he was confident the ordinance would pass.

“I knew Jim Gee would vote no,” because he had consistently voiced his objections, Manier said after the meeting. “I am shocked and embarrassed. I thought we were on board with the idea.”

During the Nov. 10 committee-of-the-whole meeting, council members discussed the recently failed ordinance that would have raised Washington’s hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.

Alderman Don Brubaker said, “After getting clarification, I can now stand behind the ordinance.”

Alderman Jim Gee said he was never opposed to giving the PACVB 1 percent of the current hotel tax revenue, but he is against raising the tax.

True to his word, Gee, along with Schneider, again voted no to the tax increase Monday night.

Aldermen Dingledine and Brubaker voted for the increase this time around, along with Newman, Howerter and Brucks. Clanin was not in attendance.

The newly passed ordinance has only one change, per committee discussion last week.

The tax will automatically expire unless action to the contrary is taken by the council on or before Dec. 31, 2010.

City Administrator Bob Morris wrote in a memo to Manier and council members that the change is consistent with the city’s prior understanding with the PACVB.

The PACVB will be given two years to demonstrate the success of the undertaking.

Brubaker said he is sure the city will know well ahead of the 2010 deadline if the plan is a success.

Brent Lonteen, president and chief executive officer for the PACVB, first brought the issue to area leaders in the spring.

Stressing that the PACVB supports Peoria area promotion, Lonteen said without the extra funding, the bureau would not be able to continue doing what it has done in the past because of increased costs and a fund shortage, Lonteen said during the April 14 committee of the whole meeting.

Peoria was the first community to pass the hotel/motel tax increase.

Before Washington’s aldermen would vote on the issue, they chose to wait and see what happened with Morton and East Peoria.

Because Peoria and Washington are both home rule communities, they could vote on the matter at any time.

However, Morton and East Peoria are not home rule municipalities; therefore, each needed a vote by the state legislature to allow the increase.

On Aug. 26, Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed a bill that would allow Morton and East Peoria to raise the tax 6 percent. However, state legislators, led by Senators. Dave Koehler and James DiLep and Representatives. Mike Smith, David Leitch and Aaron Schock, overrode the governor’s veto.

Morton Village Board members passed the hotel tax increase Oct. 6 and approved investing that revenue with PACVB at its Oct. 20 meeting.

East Peoria City Council approved the increase at its Oct. 28 meeting, but will decide whether to give the added revenue to the PACVB at a later date.