Monday, Dec 9, 2013
Business Owners Claim County Tax is Misused
JACKSON COUNTY -- Jackson County leaders are taking a closer look at a hotel tax after complaints by business owners.
Bed-and-breakfasts and rental cabins have paid a 5 percent county hotel tax for years. The money is supposed to help advertise and promote tourism, but business owners say they haven't seen that help and are beginning to speak out.
Dorothy Lada operates rental cabins in Makanda. In the past year business has grown but it means more money spent on taxes.
"I spend several hundred dollars a month area and it is only going up," said Lada. "We are giving this money to the county leaders in good faith that they are going to use it as the ordinance states."
Two tourism bureaus, Southernmost Illinois Tourism and the Murphsyboro Tourism Commission, each get nearly thousand $50,000 a year from the tax.
"Murphysboro commission has never been accountable for their spending of that money," said Lada. "We have never been able to get our hands on documentation that shows the exact numbers."
Russ Ward with the Murphysboro commission disagrees.
"We are taking every penny and we are stretching it," said Ward.
He says the commission has used the money for magazine ads, and other marketing to attract tourists to Jackson County.
"Through our direct advertising we had over 200 people that contacted us about tourism to Jackson County," explained Ward. "I don't think that any other tourism agency out there can say that."
The county's land use committee plans to hear from both Ward and upset business owners to determine if the funds are being used appropriately and if any changes need to be made.
"We do more with the limited funds we have than the other tourism agencies could do with a whole pile of cash," explained Ward.
"I would like to see some accountability on how exactly this money is being spent," said Lada.
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