SHERIDAN — Voters will see a countywide 4 percent lodging tax on the primary election ballot. The three outlying municipalities in Sheridan County, along with the city of Sheridan and Sheridan County commissioners approved of the ballot measure.
With the measure going before the public in November, citizens and business owners shared concerns about how the tax was to be integrated and questioned the current funds being utilized through the already-established city lodging tax.
The city of Sheridan currently collects a 4 percent lodging tax on all lodging businesses within city limits.
During the 2016 election, voters elected to continue the 4 percent tax, 6,359 voting in favor of the tax and 1,512 against.
If the countywide tax is equally supported, it will replace the city of Sheridan’s current tax. So, instead of an 8 percent tax in the city, it will remain at the current 4 percent.
“We’ve had great and positive support from the outlying municipalities,” Sheridan Travel and Tourism executive director Shawn Parker said. “People have really seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity for all of us to market and work together.”
Another concern was if the tax would hurt local business by forcing lodges to increase prices. The tax would not impact the lodge owners, but instead would add a 4 percent tax to each night of stay on the consumers.
“It doesn’t actually affect anybody’s rates, it affects what the consumer pays at the end of the day,” Parker said.
The city of Sheridan’s lodging tax is divided into two parts — 90 percent is disbursed directly to Sheridan Travel and Tourism for their efforts.
The other 10 percent goes into administrative costs and an economic development fund.
The revenues deposited into the economic development fund are distributed at the discretion of the mayor.
“The fund is administered at the mayor’s discretion to support economic development opportunities within the community,” city clerk Cecilia Good said. “An example of use in the past is the powwow.”
The detailed budget showed distributions to sponsor Ignite Your Business Conference, aerospace meetings, city of Sheridan Relay for Life team, rodeo powwow and a congressional fact finding trip. It also distributed funds for Weatherby project meetings and trip costs. Expenses totaled $51,701.64 for the year.
The other 90 percent goes directly to pay for tourism attraction efforts for Sheridan County. The largest expense goes toward publications, advertising and printing at a budgeted $220,475. The second largest expense went toward salaries at a total of $153,989.55.
With the additional funding, Parker said STT would focus efforts on international markets, specifically Germany, France, England and Canada.
“The Germans are massively interested in the Western history and that’s really an untapped market for our region,” Parker said.
Parker said with history and increased interest in polo, France and England are also target markets. Canada is the closest international target and Parker said specifically Calgary and Toronto are easy targets for tourism marketing.
General election absentee voting begins Sept. 21 and ends on the official voting day, Nov. 6.