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Vote on disputed hotel tax hike proposal for Allen County is delayed

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The idea of boosting a local innkeeper’s tax to help market the community to outside tourists and business prospects is on shaky ground.

Allen County Council Thursday put off until next month a vote on the tax increase proposal.

If it eventually gets approved, the tax charged to people renting a hotel room or other form of lodging in Allen County would jump from 7 percent to 8 percent.

It would be a small increase per room, but is projected to generate an additional $750,000 annually for Visit Fort Wayne.

The agency insists it’s not a pretty picture when you look at how we do in spending to attract more tourists and trade shows compared to other Midwest cities.

“We’re second to last of 15 cities, in terms of dollars available to market. In the state of Indiana we’re 8th, and as the 2nd largest city we think we can do better,” said Dan O’Connell, the president of Visit Fort Wayne.

O’Connell says the new revenue could better get the word out about the county library’s world class genealogy collection.

He also claims Turnstone warrants beefed up marketing.

It is an agency which now hosts major competitions for the disabled, like a recent international Goalball tourney.

Memorial Coliseum officials also say the tax hike could be used for financial incentive payouts to attract concerts, conventions and sporting events the facility to date has been at a disadvantage trying to land.

A pair of taxpayers spoke at a public hearing on the issue before members of county council on Thursday,  pleading with the fiscal panel to shoot down the hotel tax hike.

Among their concerns–that tax money would be turned over to Visit Fort Wayne, an organization led by a board that is non-elected.

Visit Fort Wayne says it stands ready to provide a spot on its board to a county council member, diminishing worries about a lack of oversight of the hotel tax monies.

Five of seven council members have expressed reservations about the tax proposal, including Republican Ken Fries, Allen County’s former sheriff.

“I think Visit Fort Wayne does a great job, they probably do need more money to do more, but not at the taxpayer’s expense,” Fries said.

The tax hike proposal was tabled for more study before an expected vote at council’s next scheduled meeting on August 15th.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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