Proposal could give DuPage the power to impose a countywide hotel tax

 
 
Updated 5/31/2019 8:30 AM

A controversial idea to create a countywide hotel occupancy tax in DuPage is now linked to a proposal in Springfield.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis this week introduced legislation that would allow a county with at least 800,000 residents and less than 3 million to impose a hotel tax in towns that already have a municipal hotel tax.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Money collected from the county hotel tax would have to be used to "promote tourism and economic development in the county," according to the bill.

The measure is being spearheaded by a group of municipal, hotel and businesses leaders. The DuPage Coalition for Tourism says a countywide tax -- paid by hotel visitors -- would generate revenue to pay for efforts to attract visitors, meetings and events to the county and fill its nearly 16,000 hotel rooms.

"We're very grateful that Representative Willis is a strong supporter of tourism," said Beth Marchetti, executive director of the DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau. She said the Addison Democrat understands that communities west of O'Hare International Airport "have a potential to be really solid in tourism."

But the tax proposal is drawing strong opposition from several municipalities and economic groups, including Oak Brook and Naperville. Because towns already impose their own hotel-motel taxes to raise money to promote tourism, they say a countywide tax would be redundant.

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"This is a money grab," said Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership. "It would basically sweep money out of Naperville and other communities to fund what is a membership organization -- the DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau."

In addition to the Naperville Development Partnership, the groups fighting against the tax include the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Chamber 630, the Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters of the county hotel tax argue the DuPage tourism bureau, which operates with a roughly $2 million annual budget, needs more resources because the tourism landscape has changed.

DuPage's more than 100 hotels long relied on Chicago to perform well. But in recent years, the number of hotel rooms in Chicago has increased dramatically. So the days of big conventions in downtown Chicago filling hotel rooms in DuPage are over, tourism officials say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If DuPage had a hotel tax, Marchetti said, it would have a funding source to become competitive with the Chicago market and the rest of the Midwest.

While the proposed tax rate is yet to be determined, it's estimated that a 1 percent tax would generate $3 million to $3.5 million a year.

Marchetti said the extra money would be used in several ways.

First, it would fund a new sports commission that's working to recruit, retain and facilitate sporting events. The bureau also would step up efforts to attract meetings and conventions. Finally, the money would be used to promote DuPage.

But Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani said his town already has a local 3 percent tax on stays at its seven hotels. He said a countywide tax isn't needed.

"We obviously want to promote tourism," Lalmalani said. "But this is not the way to do it. You're going to detract tourists from coming to DuPage County if you keep increasing taxes."

Even if the state law change is approved, the DuPage County Board would need to adopt a resolution to create the hotel tax.

"We hope the DuPage County chairman and board members push back on this," Jeffries said.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin said in a statement that the tourism bureau "must gain the support of the DuPage hotel industry leadership and mayors to be successful."

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