Monroe County Council Postpones Food And Beverage Tax Vote

The Monroe County Council president says the council needs to further analyze alternative ways to pay for the county's convention center expansion.

convention center

Photo: Stan Jastrzebski

This space (foreground) is slated to be part of the space onto which the Monroe County Convention Center (background) eventually expands.

The Monroe County Council has put a vote on a 1 percent proposed food and beverage tax on hold, Monroe County Council President Geoff McKim announced Wednesday.

The council originally planned to vote on the proposal September 10, but McKim says after talking to council member Rick Dietz, the ordinance’s sponsor, they decided the council needs to conduct a more “in-depth analysis” of alternative funding through the innkeeper’s tax.

The taxes are being considered as a way to fund the $30 million expansion of the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.

Indiana Memorial Union Associate Executive Director Thom Simmons says that simply won’t work. “Raising the innkeeper’s tax will not raise the money that is needed,” Simmons says, “plus it puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other communities in the state.”

A 1 percent food and beverage tax is estimated to bring in $2.5 million annually, but restaurant owners whose businesses are outside Bloomington but still in Monroe County say they would have to pay the tax without benefiting from the additional people coming to the convention center.

Convention and Visitor’s Bureau executive director Talisha Coppock says the expansion will benefit everyone, so it’s unfair for all of the money to come from the innkeeper’s tax. She says it needs to be shared.

“Even if we increase the innkeeper’s tax by three percent,” says Coppock, “that would only bring in $1.3 million, and that’s not enough to do the project we’re talking about.”

Increasing the existing innkeeper’s tax from 5 percent to 8 percent as an alternative to the food and beverage tax was brought up for discussion at the county council’s last meeting.

The state legislature would have to approve an increase on the innkeeper’s tax.

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