PADUCAH — A proposal that would increase the hotel tax to fund tourism-related sports projects passed a first reading by the McCracken County Fiscal Court on Monday.
"It's going to move the county and the city forward in a strong way," said Judge Executive Craig Clymer during Monday evening's meeting.
Under the proposal, the county would split from the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau to create its own McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission. This would allow the county and the city to each levy its own hotel tax, which would be stacked together for guests at hotels in Paducah.
"So the county will levy a 6% tax, and then I think the city plans to levy a 4% tax. So then our total transient room tax is going to be 10%," said County Commissioner Eddie Jones, who came up with the proposal.
Jones said of the 6% tax that the county would levy, one-third would pay for the debt associated with the convention center and Carson Center, one-sixth would go to the operation of the convention center, and half would go to the Sports Tourism Commission.
Of the 4% tax that the city would levy, one-fourth would go to the convention center and the remaining three-fourths would go to Paducah CVB.
Jones said the proposal is projected to generate more than $1 million in additional revenue each year that would be used to fund projects that would draw tourism, such as a recreation complex or sports fields.
"(The money) will have to go toward a type of tournament-worthy field or facility where we can actually host tournaments and create a market in which people will come to our town for sports activities," said Jones. "All you got to do is drive around town and talk to a few parents and ask them what they did last weekend. And they'll tell you, 'Well, we were in Owensboro for tennis or we were in Bowling Green for softball.' We're actually lagging behind a little bit in that area, and I think we can catch up."
One possibility is adding volleyball and basketball courts to the Convention and Expo Center, and using it as a site for sports tournaments.
"The group that runs the convention center is interested in the idea. So it's a big building, it has a nice ceiling height, and so there are some real possibilities," said Jones.
During Monday's fiscal court meeting, the judge executive and commissioners approved the first reading of three ordinances related to the proposal:
— The first establishes updated procedures for collection, disbursement and enforcement of the transient room tax.
— The second brings about the withdrawal of the county from Paducah CVB to form its own McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission.
— The third approves the formation of an inter-local cooperation agreement among the city of Paducah, McCracken County, the Paducah-McCracken County Tourist and Convention Commission, the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center, and the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission.
As part of the proposal, the annual budget of the convention center would doubled from $300,000 to $600,000. County leaders said they want more discussions on what the convention center would do with the additional money.
Under the proposal, people using online brokering agencies such as Airbnb and VRBO will also be subject to the increased hotel tax.
The county still needs to pass a second reading on the proposal for it to go into effect. The city needs to reach an agreement as well. Tuesday at the Paducah City Commission meeting, leaders will discuss the inter-local agreement that is part of the proposal.