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Council rescinds lodging tax
May 31, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Members of the Gering City Council voted to repeal an earlier ordinance that would have imposed a 4.5 percent occupation tax on lodging within the city.

The proposed tax would have been used to support the city’s recreational facilities, including a sports complex which has been discussed off and on for the past several years.

The original ordinance, once it was passed, generated strong opposition from Gering motel operators because Scottsbluff declined to pass a similar ordinance. They claimed the added tax would put them at a competitive disadvantage with lodging facilities in Scottsbluff.

The lone ‘no’ vote to repeal the ordinance came from council member Rebecca Shields. “We need to be smart council members, but we also need to be visionaries,” she said. “The only way we’re going to bring a sports complex or anything else into the area is through some kind of occupation tax.”

She added that cities across the state add on occupation taxes to support services such as the new sports center in Lincoln. “Most people ask what the room rates are, not what kinds of taxes are included on the bill.”

Council president Larry Gibbs voted for the repeal although he originally supported the ordinance. “We voted for the occupation with the understanding we had some pretty firm commitments from different organizations that would help support a sports complex,” he said. “At this point, I don’t think we have that. That doesn’t mean we can’t address an occupation tax sometime in the future if and when that support comes together.”

Gibbs added the major purpose for the occupation tax was to help fund the sports complex. Other recreation and entertainment venues should be addressed within the existing city budget.

Council members also discussed a potential Request for Proposal that would ask for a feasibility study on the sports complex.
The proposed RFP was tabled until the June 11 meeting to allow time for the document to be edited and modified.

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