Delaware County voters will be asked to consider an addition to the county’s bed tax in the March 2016 election.
County commissioners voted Thursday to place a 3-percent lodging excise tax on the ballot for the March 15, 2016, primary election. The tax, if passed, would be in effect for five years and provide funding to pay for permanent improvements at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
“This has been a very, very long process,” said Chip Thomson, president of the Delaware County Agriculture Society. “This is just another step. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Thomson noted that the bed tax could generate about $200,000 annually based on current occupancy rates for Delaware County. On average, the tax would about $3 to the cost of a night’s stay in a hotel.
The provision that will allow the tax measure to be placed on the ballot was the work of Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, who inserted a provision in the state budget to create a pilot program that allows county fairs that host harness races with a one-day attendance of 40,000 or more to levy a bed tax of up to 3 percent with voter approval.
“It gives us an opportunity to have the stable funding source that allows for some capital projects that aren’t otherwise going to get done in an appropriate time,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell. “I commend the fair board and everybody that’s been involved and the work you’ve done to get it to this point, and our state representatives that were involved in this as well.”
According to the Friends of Your Delaware County Fair website, proceeds from the proposed bed tax would be “earmarked for use on the infrastructure of the fairgrounds, such as roads, electrical grid, plumbing, drainage, building improvements and restrooms.” The fairgrounds was built in 1938.
“I do support this resolution, and we need to keep our fair going and take care of our fairgrounds,” said Commissioner Barb Lewis.
Due to his involvement with the Little Brown Jug Society, Commissioner Jeff Benton recused himself from participating in discussion about and voting on the resolution. Benton serves on the Little Brown Jug Society board of directors.