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Riverside voters OK hotel/motel tax

Also approved expanding size of board of supervisors

Rachel Gallegos

Iowa City Press-Citizen

November 8, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

RIVERSIDE -- Voters gave strong support Tuesday to a 7 percent tax to future hotels or motels built within city limits.

With all 14 precincts reporting, more than 300 voters -- or 80 percent -- approved the tax, according to unofficial results from the Washington County Auditor's Office.

Voters also approved a ballot measure expanding the size of the county board of supervisors, from three members to five. The count was 3,893 votes supporting the measure and 2,395 votes opposing it -- a 62 percent approval.

Voters who emerged from the Riverside Community Fire Department polling location Tuesday said they saw the benefits the hotel/motel tax could have on the community.

The tax could take effect either this Jan. 1 or on July 1, 2007.

"The money from future hotels could go a long way," Riverside city councilor Todd Yahnke said after voting.

"Fix up downtown, stuff like that."

Under Iowa law, at least half of the money received from a hotel/motel tax goes to a city for the promotion and encouragement of tourism, cultural, educational, charitable, economic development and city beautification.

"I voted yes because I think it's something we could use the money for," Riverside resident Mary Jane Stumpf said.

But because of an existing agreement between the city and the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort, owner of the only existing hotel within city limits, the city will not receive any additional funding at this time.

In the agreement, the casino gives the city $1.7 million annually in equal monthly installments in lieu of other charges. The city will reimburse the 7 percent hotel/motel tax to the casino.

The casino, like any future hotel or motel, will charge its guests the 7 percent hotel/motel tax in addition to the 5 percent state sales tax.

Under state law, money from the hotel/motel tax goes first to the state, which distributes it to each city and county that collects the tax.

As of July 1, 12 counties and 107 towns and cities in Iowa have hotel/motel taxes in place, ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent.

Residents, meanwhile, appeared to be more split on the question of whether to expand the board of supervisors.

"I can't see really justifying two more," said Yahnke, who opposed the measure.

Riverside resident Tim Colbert agreed.

"I think the supervisors do a good job right now," he said. "I'd just as soon stay the way they are."

But Stumpf said she sees the need to expand the board because of the breadth of issues it discusses and votes on.

"Times have changed a lot," Stumpf said.

"I don't know that three people can be totally knowledgeable about everything they're voting about."