It’s not often that a previously failed bill gets a speedy second chance to pass voter muster, but this year Bossier Parish voters will have another opportunity to consider approving an increase in the Caddo and Bossier Parishes hotel occupancy tax. Last November, the “no” votes cast by Bossier Parish voters were enough to defeat the tax increase the two-parish election.
A similar proposal was sponsored in the current legislative session by Rep. Alan Seabaugh; House Bill 216 has passed initial muster in the House on a 85-0 vote, passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote, and has been returned to the House and scheduled for floor debate today, June 3. It’s a safe bet that this proposition again will be before Caddo and Bossier Parish voters on this fall’s ballot.
The current proposal would increase the hotel occupancy tax from the current 4.5 percent to 6 percent – which is levied and collected by the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau. The additional 1.5 percent collected would be divided evenly between the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, the Independence Bowl, and the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance.
According to the Legislative Auditor’s fiscal note regarding the bill, revenue derived by increasing the occupancy tax could generate an additional $860,327 starting with the 2015-16 fiscal year, and approximately $1.7 annually thereafter. And the impact of these new dollars to the target organizations would be to the benefit of both the Caddo and Bossier communities.
This proposition to increase the hotel occupancy tax to provide additional revenue to these three organizations, which contribute heavily to the local economy, should not be a difficult decision for voters. But, given last year’s outcome, and expecting that HB 216 will manifest to a fall ballot item, over the next few months this column will feature in-depth reviews of the work of all three of the entities that would benefit from the tax increase.
In the meantime, a few points for consideration by doubting voters.
First, my husband and I returned last week from our spring vacation. We stayed in hotel/motels/condos from Mississippi to Georgia to Tennessee. And the week before our vacation, we were in a hotel in Gonzales, Louisiana.
The bills for every one of these lodging facilities include an “occupancy tax” of between 2 percent and 8 percent. A little research on the subject found that occupancy taxes, sometimes called excise taxes, are quite common and are levied for a variety of purposes. In Meridian, MS, for example, the 2.5 percent occupancy tax funds the salaries and activities of the Lauderdale Tourism Department. In Tupelo, MS, the same tax is identified as a “Convention and Tourism Promotion Tax.” Alternatively, some localities use their occupancy tax revenues to fund municipal capital improvements – but there was no exception in our travels – every hotel bill reflected an occupancy tax.
There was also no exception about who paid this tax: visitors to the area. Local residents do not pay this tax.
Instead local residents benefit from the proceeds of the tax through the work of tourism officials and Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, the Independence Bowl, and the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance. That work produces revenues for our local retail and restaurant outlets, increased employment opportunities for our residents and, importantly, sales tax revenues that we do not pay, but which local governments leverage to our advantage in capital improvements and services.
Bottom line: If we want to enjoy the benefit of such increased opportunities and advantages, a “yes” vote gets us there. In the coming weeks, look for more reasons to vote affirmatively on this important issue.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at