SHERIDAN — Sheridan Travel and Tourism staff and board members are pushing a ballot proposition that would implement a 4 percent countywide lodging tax that STT director Shawn Parker says will allow the county to significantly expand the scope of its tourism marketing.
“It’s obvious that travel and tourism impacts the county in a very positive way, but we’re in an uncompetitive position without having a countywide lodging tax,” Parker said.
Though the city of Sheridan currently has a 4 percent lodging tax, Sheridan County is one of five counties in the state without its own lodging tax. If this proposition goes to the ballot and voters ratify it, the lodging tax in the city would remain unchanged and a flat 4 percent lodging tax would be instituted in the rest of the county.
Parker said the city lodging tax generates about $600,000 to $650,000 in revenue per year, which has been increasing. In the county, Parker said the maximum the tax could bring in is about $850,000 if county lodgings are at 100 percent occupancy.
“Obviously, we’re not going to run at 100 percent capacity,” Parker said. “But if you look at 50 percent, you’re talking in the neighborhood of $400,000 or at 25 percent, you’re looking at $250,000, so the numbers are very significant.”
The bulk of that revenue would go into marketing the county’s tourism destinations. County administrative director Renee Obermueller said the additional revenue would boost the county’s current efforts and allow it to reach new markets regionally, nationally and internationally. Obermueller said international marketing in particular could grow county tourism.
“We’ve dipped our toe into that a little bit, but I think we’re missing the boat on some international marketing for groups that are really interested in the historic West,” Obermueller said.
Sheridan Travel and Tourism is currently a city entity, but Obermueller said the group has been involved with promoting tourism county-wide and reached out to the county about extending the lodging tax.
“When we look at that tourism industry and all of these things bringing in people from outside of our community, it just makes sense; it makes sense to be in the position to earn additional tax on those locations simply because we’re already promoting them,” Obermueller said.
If the countywide tax is successful, the Sheridan Travel and Tourism board would restructure into a joint powers board to include county representation.
The city’s lodging tax has historically been popular among voters. When Sheridan’s lodging tax was up for renewal in 2016, voters overwhelmingly backed its continuation with nearly 76 percent support. With more than two-thirds of the community in the county supporting the proposition, it will appear on November’s ballot. Sheridan City Council and Clearmont Town Council each voted to support the proposition at their meetings Monday. Ranchester City Council voted to support the proposition at its meeting Tuesday. Parker said Dayton will consider the proposition July 2.