Naperville opposes countywide hotel tax proposed in DuPage

 
 

The city of Naperville has joined local economic and tourism leaders in opposing the creation of a countywide hotel occupancy tax.

The DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau has proposed implementing the tax, paid by hotel visitors, as a way to generate revenue that would be reinvested in tourism.

The goal is to fill the county's 16,000 hotel rooms by attracting visitors, meetings and events, county tourism officials said. But their efforts would be redundant and burdensome for communities such as Naperville that have hotel/motel taxes of their own, said Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership.

Establishing the countywide tax would first require a change in state law and then a resolution to be adopted by the county board. Though legislation has yet to be drafted, the Naperville City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to send a letter to state lawmakers expressing their objection to the concept.

"The concern that I have is once again, Naperville will be tapped for the benefit of businesses and residents outside of Naperville, which seems to be an endless tactic that's used against our community," Mayor Steve Chirico said.

The city joins Oak Brook in the fight against the tax, as well as five commerce and tourism organizations that issued a joint statement last month. Those groups include the Naperville Development Partnership, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Chamber630, the Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce.

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Naperville, Oak Brook and Oakbrook Terrace account for the lion's share of the county's hotel rooms, Jeffries said, with 19 hotels and nearly 2,500 rooms in Naperville alone. While those communities would carry the load of the additional tax, she said, towns with little to no lodging would receive the benefits without feeling an impact.

As a home-rule community, Naperville uses a portion of its local 5.5% hotel-motel tax on tourism and economic development, with the rest going into the city's general fund. A state lodging tax brings the city's total rate to 11.5%, which Jeffries said is still a far cry from the more than 17% paid by hotel guests in Chicago.

With the countywide tax, the city risks overburdening its hotels and guests, she said, and also loses any future leverage to increase its local tax for budgetary needs.

"We have a competitive advantage here in Naperville, in DuPage County, with the lower tax," Jeffries said. "Most of our (hotel) business here, since we're not a big spring break destination, is our local businesses, our brides, our families and sporting events. This would essentially be a tax on our businesses."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The county bureau, which currently operates with a $2 million budget, intends to use the extra money to fund a sports commission that would recruit and facilitate sporting events, officials said. It also would increase efforts to promote DuPage and attract meetings and conventions to the area.

But Naperville already has had success recruiting those events and visitors, Jeffries said, often through partnerships with neighboring communities and local coalitions.

In response to early controversy last month, bureau Executive Director Beth Marchetti said the process will serve as an "educational opportunity" for hotels, municipalities and organizations to make the county healthier in the future.

Chirico and other city council members, however, said they have no interest in supporting the proposal unless it "carves out Naperville." They are expected to vote on a formal resolution of opposition at an upcoming meeting.

"I don't know why we would want ... to make our resident businesses effectively subsidize other communities," Councilman Kevin Coyne said. "We want all our neighboring communities to do well, but not on our dime, and not without a clear showing that there's a direct benefit to Naperville."

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