Liberty may levy tax for tourism

September 03, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - The City Council is considering a 3 percent tax on restaurants and lodging establishments to have funds to promote tourism and economic development.

Mayor Steve Sweeney asked the council Tuesday to consider the tax that could be collected by restaurants, motels and bed and breakfast establishments.

The money could amount up to $200,000 annually, and a tourism commission appointed by the mayor and Liberty/Casey County Chamber of Commerce would spend it. The board will have two representatives from hotels, one from restaurants, one chamber member and three at-large.

"This creates an opportunity to create facilities and events to attract tourists to the city," said Arlen Sanders, executive director of the Liberty Economic Development Authority. He said 75 percent of the money would be for tourism and economic development, and the other 25 percent could be use for other recreational things to attract people to the county.


Sweeney said if a tourism commission is in place it can help to increase the restaurant business. He said the tax could be up to 3 percent.

Steve Wuckert, owner of McDonald's restaurant on the bypass, said he also has visions of developing and improving the community, but expressed concern about the tax. The extra 3 percent would make the total tax grow to 9 percent, including the state's 6 percent sales tax.

He said the proposal should be taken with caution and be looked at seriously and slowly.

"It could be used wisely to develop tourism, but if it doesn't work, you'll only tax people who live here. I'm concerned about getting the cart before the horse," he said. "We need to develop recreational areas and parks and expand the (city) lake to bring people in." He said 75 to 80 percent of his customers live in Liberty.

Wuckert said having an event in town every weekend is his vision.

The tourism tax would stay in town to promote the area, but Wuckert said he would hate to see the money eaten up by wages for someone to push papers. He suggested having a "good solid plan" before enacting the tax.

Sanders said the agricultural center will bring in more people once it gets going. He said other communities have profited by a tourism tax. The county needs to get its share of tourism money from people traveling through the county, he said.

The council was asked to study the proposal and look at it again at the Sept. 10 council meeting.

"We're a small rural community. We have to look at the burden vs. benefits and what's the best interest of the people in Liberty," said the mayor.

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