NORMAN — Residents will go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether the city's hotel/motel room tax should be increased by 1 percent.
Voters are being asked to increase the hotel/motel room tax from 4 to 5 percent on overnight stays in the city's 2,831 hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast rooms.
The tax, which originated in 1980, generated $1.11 million in fiscal year 2012.
Based on last year's tax collections, an increase of 1 percent would result in an additional $284,000 to be invested in convention and tourism development, the arts and city parks, said Stephen Koranda, executive director of the city's convention and visitors bureau.
“This tax increase is not paid for by Norman residents. It will be paid for by visitors to Norman,” Koranda said. “But, residents will reap the benefits from the additional tax.”
Currently, the city retains 3 percent of the amount collected as reimbursement for administering the tax. The remaining 97 percent is divided among the convention and visitors bureau, which gets 50 percent; the arts, which get 25 percent; and parks, which receive 25 percent. The division would remain the same if the measure is approved.
If the measure passes, the new rate would take effect May 1, Koranda said.
The Norman Arts Council has been an excellent steward of the funds in the past, Koranda said, using its portion to grant matching funds for such community events as Jazz in June and for arts education projects sponsored by the Firehouse Art Center and Sooner Theatre.
The Parks and Recreation Department has used room tax money to help pay for improvements at Griffin Park, Reaves Park and Westwood Park, Koranda said.
Koranda said the Convention and Visitors Bureau needs additional money to boost tourism, which would boost sales tax revenue. Currently, the bureau's operating budget is the lowest of any tourism bureau in the Big 12 Conference, Koranda said.
Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 7 p.m.