Carson City Visitors Bureau board recommends room tax hike

A boost in the lodging room tax here to 11 percent for financing a culture and arts initiative was recommended Tuesday by the Carson City Visitors Bureau board.

The tax, which was recommended to the city’s Board of Supervisors and increases the tax from 10 percent, would be overseen by the bureau and board in cooperation with the city’s Cultural Commission. Both panels would help hire staff involved.

The commission recently adopted an arts and culture master plan, which among other things was geared to coordinate culture and get one or more staff person to handle the initiative. The boost would raise $100,000 to $120,000 a year.

“This is a good thing,” said Jonathan Boulware, board chairman and manager of the Gold Dust West Resort and Casino, He called it short-sighted not to do it.

Member Stan Jones pushed for a sunset after five years and it was included without dissent.

There was dissent, however, from some who testified.

After Joel Dunn, bureau executive director, said top lodging properties favored the plan as long as the board rather than city government oversaw finances. But other industry spokespersons objected.

“I have a problem being jabbed,” said Gene Lepire of Comstock Country RV Resort, who argued for a vote by lodging properties rather than the bureau board.

Judy Lepire, also of the Comstock RV resort, first asked the hike be delayed a year or two because of the recent recession and then argued to keep the five-year sunset language strong.

Linda Barnett of Wyndham Gardens said she had a petition from a dozen lodging properties opposed, but Boulware said he was unsure they were given an unbiased view of the issues involved.

Dunn, meanwhile, said he had contacted all properties but only representatives from major hotels and motels showed at meetings.

In crossing verbal swords with Boulware, Barnett said smaller “mom and pop” owners can’t show up at meetings. “And not only that, they’re afraid,” she said.

Dwight Millard of the Plaza Hotel preferred going to 10.5 percent rather than 11 percent and favored the sunset provision. He also noted the tax is paid by lodgers, not the properties.

Salina Clark of Courtyard Marriott expressed support for both the room tax increase and the Visitors Bureau.

Supervisor Karen Abowd, a member of the bureau’s board and the Cultural Commission who wrote the master plan, said the goal is to hire someone to promote culture so it draws tourists, upgrades events and attract grants or donations.

“We’ve waited too long,” she said. “We’re the capital city. It’s part of who we’re going to become.”


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