Community members attend Campbell County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday to discuss several issues facing including Lodging tax and the future of Gillette College.
Correction: The language regarding the rate of tax to be imposed was updated for clarity and distribution of funds were modified for accuracy.
Whether to raise the lodging tax by 2% will be up to voters this November, per a decision made by the Campbell County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.
Voting in favor of adding the tax to the ballot were Commission Chairman DG Reardon and Commissioners Rusty Bell and Bob Maul. Commissioners Colleen Faber and Del Shelstad were opposed.
Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Jessica Seders brought a resolution to the board, asking to add the proposed increased lodging tax to the 2020 ballot.
Seders reiterated that lodging taxes are only paid by individuals and families who are occupying hotel rooms, campsites, air bed and breakfasts or cabins within the county. Lodging tax exemptions include workers staying for more than 30 days and fair attendees who’ve parked their campers for the week.
“This is the only tax that our locals will benefit from, but not have to pay,” Seders said.
In Wyoming, the State of Wyoming imposes a 4% sales tax on all sales in the state including lodging. Local communities can elect to impose an additional 1% by vote of the county electorate. In Campbell County, the voters have approved the Optional 1% Sales Tax since 1976.
Communities have also had the option to impose a lodging tax for promotion of their communities. Campbell County voters approved the imposition of a 2% lodging tax in Campbell County at the general election in 2012 and 2016.
In its 2020 session, the Wyoming legislature approved a new 5% statewide lodging tax to support the statewide Office of Tourism in order to remove the agency’s funding from the state’s general fund. That new 5% statewide lodging tax is split 3% directly to the Wyoming Office of Tourism and 2% to the local community. The 2% to the local community is now guaranteed and not subject to renewal by a community’s electors. Because of the new statewide lodging tax’s 2% guaranteed amount to the CVB, no change in the tax rate currently levied has occurred for visitors to Campbell County.
The resolution approved by the Board of Commissioners would allow the voters of Campbell County to increase the local portion of the lodging tax from 2% to 4% in the November election. If approved, the new rate would go into effect soon April 1, 2021, according to information from the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition.
The current 2% lodging tax generated $450,000 of revenue in 2019 in Campbell County. In light of travel restrictions that followed COVID-19, Seders predicts that even if residents approved the 4% lodging tax in November, the CVB will still see less revenue in 2020, since the new rate would not start until April 1, 2021, and that for 2021 the amount collected will likely be lower too. Under State statute, Wyoming counties cannot exceed a 4% lodging tax.
Reardon opened the matter for question and comment from the board by announcing that he is in favor of the lodging tax increase because of the role it plays in community development. Bell interjected, asking Seder how revenues from the lodging tax are spent by the CVB.
Seders, who is heavily involved in the community’s marketing and development explained that in 2019, the CVB provided $55,000 in grants to various events that took place in Campbell County in order for them to offer more activities. However, she explained most of the funds are directed toward marketing for the community.
“We go to conventions and we sell Campbell County,” Seders said. “We do everything we can to get these huge events to come here and bring people.”
Upon discussion, Shelstad requested a list of events the CVB has financially assisted along with marketing techniques they’ve applied to provide the board with a more tangible sense of where lodging tax revenues go.
Bell made a motion to adopt the resolution, which was seconded by Maul. Chairman Reardon asked for a vote, which resulted in a three-to-two decision.
“The board didn’t vote whether to make lodging tax 2% or 4%,” Seders explained at the meeting. “They voted whether to allow our voters to decide.”
At their Tuesday evening meeting, the Gillette City Council voted unanimously to put the issue before Campbell County voters, following public comment mostly in support of the proposal.
Current Sales and Lodging Tax Rates by County
(Source: Wyoming Department of Revenue)