The Monroe County Council appears to be divided after hearing from the public about the adoption of a 1 percent food and beverage tax to support an expansion of the convention center.
Several community members spoke Tuesday night for and against the tax as a way to generate funds for the proposed $30 million project.
William Ellis is the Founder of Monroe County Citizens Against The Food and Beverage Tax. Ellis says he supports a convention center expansion, just not one funded through a food and beverage tax.
Ellis called the proposed 1 percent tax “regressive,” saying it would disproportionately hurt low-income residents. He says he’d rather see the project paid for out of the innkeepers tax.
“The innkeepers tax would be a very viable way to do this,” Ellis says. “That is a usage tax – that is when people are visiting they’re gonna pay extra money on the hotels – that currently funds the convention center now and that would be a way it would fund it in perpetuity.”
Council Member Shelli Yoder says she remains undecided on the tax. But after hearing a great deal of opposition from constituents, she says an alternative revenue stream such as the innkeepers tax might be a good solution.
“We could raise it from 5 percent to 8 percent and see if that could help us expand in a way that’s feasible,” says Yoder. “I would be in favor of that.”
Yoder says she’ll be working with local legislators to see if such an increase is possible before casting her final vote on the food and beverage tax next month.