Fair or Unfair: You will decide
To the residents of Arnolds Park:
We hear the phrase "life isn't fair" all the time. While it may be true, I would contend that most people, when given the opportunity, will do the fair thing. That is why I appeal to you today. I firmly believe you will be fair.
The Arnolds Park City Council has proposed that the Hotel/Motel Tax in Arnolds Park be raised from 5 percent to 7 percent (on top of a 5 percent sales tax) and they have placed this issue on the November ballot. In my opinion, that decision is unfair to the lodging industry.
As you are aware, the business world has changed a great deal since 1993 (when the tax was first introduced), and the lodging/resort industry faces challenges today that voters could not have anticipated 23 years ago.
Now, on any given summer day, there are literally thousands of tourists in our community who are renting from absentee property owners on a short-term basis who are not collecting and remitting sales and hotel/resort taxes to state and local governments. While that practice is illegal, little has been done to stop it.
Many of these owners are renting their properties through dozens of online sites like the popular VRBO and Home Away. Others simply advertise in their local papers or use local agents. The point is that our local lodging owners, who are collecting about $500,000 in hotel/motel tax each year for the city of Arnolds Park, are competing with owners who contribute nothing to this tax pool and furthermore take their rent money out of our community and spend it elsewhere. Consequently, local lodging facilities start with a 10 percent add on cost for guests, and this increase would raise that sum to 12 percent. That is unfair competition, and it hurts us all.
We have all witnessed the demise of local merchants who were forced to collect sales taxes and had to compete with online mega businesses that did not. That was unfair.
And this year, we watched as one of the most iconic lodging properties in our area vanished. It is only one of many that have fallen in recent years. This tax is a punch in the nose to those lodging facilities that remain.
In my opinion, it is also unfair to ask local resort and lodging properties to be put to an even further disadvantage by increasing the present hotel/motel tax. Letís not give a further advantage to those that donít pay their fair share for city services. Please vote on Election Day.