Columbia officials and hotel owners clash over airport funding

The city of Columbia is putting the final touches on a funding proposal for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport that would put a measure on the August ballot to increase the tax on hotel and motel rooms from 4 to 5 percent.

City officials have estimated the cost of a new terminal at the airport to be $40 million. City Manager Mike Matthes said the Federal Aviation Administration will grant half of the total cost, but first, the city has to put up its share of money.

The city planned to increase its lodging tax from 4 percent to 7 percent in 2012 after the City Council considered a staff report calling for the increase. The measure, which was co-sponsored by then-state Rep. Chris Kelly, did not pass. The bill was opposed by members of the Columbia Hospitality Association, which argued that the increase would reduce occupancy rates and that the city should consider a 5 percent tax instead.

Now, the hospitality association wants to prevent an increase to 5 percent. Local hotel and motel owners argue that they do not foresee any significant return on investment, and that a bigger and better terminal would not bring more people because Columbia is not a tourist destination.

Supporters of the increase say the airport has proven its economic worth to the city. Matthes cited a 2012 MoDOT study that showed Columbia Regional Airport to be directly and indirectly responsible for about 745 jobs combined.

The city of Columbia will host an interested parties meeting next Tuesday to provide updates on plans for future terminal projects. The meeting will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Activities and Recreation Center at 1701 W. Ash St.

Read more: Columbia Missourian

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