Indecision Over Marion Bed Tax

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By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

WILLIAMSON COUNTY — Marion leaders are considering rolling back the hotel-motel tax, that was just raised in April.

Three months after raising the bed tax to 6 percent, Marion leaders aren't sure they made the right decision.

“Motel operators have begun to feel the heat from the people that stay with them,” Mayor Butler explained.

The council first agreed to increase that tax to cover an upcoming deficit for building and operating the Hub Recreation Center. A loss of more than $200,000 is expected in the first year alone; that they agree on. The problem is finding a consensus on how to stay in the black.

“We have the highest bed tax in southern Illinois. I don't like having that reputation. I don't think that is good,” he said.

Mayor Butler proposed a new food and beverage tax instead.

“I don't believe we'd hear the complaints that we're getting now,” said Butler.

Others like Commissioner Anthony Rinella prefer keeping the bed tax.

“It's better to be proactive than reactive, then all the sudden find yourself in a $225,000 shortfall and then you're scrambling to find some dollars,” Rinella countered.

The higher tax hits Jim Zeller where it hurts: his pocketbook.

“They're gonna tax people out of this town,” Zeller urged.

He owns the Country Inn & Suites in Marion and says customers have already complained about the new tax.

“When that happens people don't stay here. They don't eat at our restaurants, they don't drink at our bars, they don't shop at our stores so they're losing the a heck of a lot more than that one percent or a $100,000 a year they've gained,” advised Zeller.

He disagrees with those who suggest the tax won't impact business in Marion.

“They do see that 1 percent or 2 percent and 5 percent and that’s why they’re gonna end up in Paducah and mostly in Mt. Vernon,” Zeller said.

If the council can't agree on a new tax to cover that loss, they'll have to take the money from city savings. There's no word when leaders will make a decision on this topic.

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