A bill to ask voters to continue Branson’s current Tourism Tax was approved by Branson Aldermen on its final reading on Tuesday. The issue will appear on the ballot in April.
If passed in April by voters, the Tourism Tax will continue being collected and will continue to provide funds the city of Branson needs to market Branson’s tourism economy and improve critical public infrastructure.
According to a presentation given to the aldermen at a Study Session on Oct. 22, the tax ensures that those who visit Branson share the burden of the cost of the city’s major infrastructure improvements and marketing.
According to a staff report provided by the city of Branson, the city currently imposes a municipal tourism tax that will retire in 2021. A failure to extend the tax will affect the city’s ability to fund the marketing of the city’s tourism economy and take away the ability to improve streets, sidewalks, waterworks and other public infrastructure projects.
Officials stressed that this is not an additional tax, but the continuation of the Tourism Tax that is already in place that was originally passed by voters.
According to the report, the Tourism Tax currently:
–Charges 4 percent on the price paid or charged for rooms or accommodations thirty days or less at hotels, motels, tourist courts, campground sites, condominium units, time-share interests in condominiums and the price charged for tickets and other charges for admission to or participation in private tourist attractions.
- Charges 0.5 percent on the price paid or charged for food and drinks sold in restaurants and other establishments.
The Tourism Tax that is collected is used in the following capacity, according to the report:
–25 percent is used for marketing purposes of the city of Branson businesses.
–75 percent is used for infrastructure improvements within the city of Branson and associated bonds.
“This is the bonding capacity and Tourism Tax renewal that we are asking the ballot language that’s presented before you today be approved and get put on the ballot – for the April election,” said city of Branson Finance Director Jamie Rouch, at the Oct. 27 aldermen meeting. “The amount for the bonding capacity that we are seeking is $93 million, and that is a result of our assessed evaluation. In the past, in the ‘97 election it was $56 million, but we can go up to 20% of our assessed evaluation, and based on this last assessed evaluation it was a little bit more than $93 million, so we chose $93 million just to be on the safe side.”
According to the Oct. 22 Study Session, 2019 actual expenditures for how the Tourism Tax was spent includes: $5+ million for debt services, $3.2+ million for marketing, $1.7+ million for TIF debt, $678,454 for capital projects, $259,541 for administrative fee, $136,540 for general fund, $125,795 for airport payment and $124,566 for the convention center.
The presentation also highlighted water and sewer needs for the city of Branson, which is estimated at $88 million for six projects, including: Compton Flood Protection, Hwy 76 Water Mains, Water Mains-Neighborhoods, Cooper Creek Expansion, Lift Station 30-Cooper Creek Forcemain and Water/Sewer infrastructure extensions to annexed areas currently unserved. All of which could be made possible thanks to the bonds and the funds collected from the Tourism Tax.
“Two principal reasons the city borrows funds. Now I will speak to the fact, right now we’re at a crossroads with bonding and those kinds of things because of the times that we’re in, so keep that in mind as we go through this a little bit,” said Rouch, at the Oct. 22 Study Session. “The cost of needed infrastructure improvements are greater than the city’s current financial resources, we can’t turn around and just pay for $10 million of infrastructure that’s greatly needed to help out our city so that’s why we would need the bonding capacity.
“Infrastructure improvements generally have a long useful life and borrowing allows users to pay for the improvement over that long life of that asset.”
According to Rouch, the Tourism Tax can not be used for items such as salaries, personnel expenses and operational expenses.
Visit ‘Agendas and Minutes’ under the ‘Government’ tab at bransonmo.gov for more information or click ‘Live Stream’ to watch the meeting from their YouTube page.