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April 4, 2023
The City of Springfield will have three measures on the April 4 municipal ballot. The first measure will ask Springfield voters whether to repeal the existing 5% tourist lodging tax and replace it with a licensing tax at the same 5% rate for hotels, motels and tourist courts and add short-term rentals (Airbnbs, Vrbos). The other two measures are amendments to Springfield’s City Charter.
Removing the sunset and modifying the tax structure would increase funding for sports and arts and cultural tourism that attract overnight travelers and continue the funding into the future. The demand and use of short-term rentals has rapidly increased in popularity and directly competes with hotels which currently collect and pay the lodging tax. This change would be applied to all transient guests, including hotel/motel/tourist courts/short-term rentals.
What is proposed is to replace/consolidated the current three-tier 5% licensing tax collected from hotels, motels and tourist courts, removing the sunset on one portion (2.5%) of the tax. The proposed replacement tax would continue at the same 5% rate, but also be collected from short-term rentals (Airbnb, VRBOs, etc.).
• 2% Lodging Tax approved in 1979
• 2.5% additional approved in 1998
• .5% additional approved in 2004
In 1979, the City of Springfield, Missouri enacted in Chapter 20 of the Springfield City Code, a section imposing a tax on “every person engaged in the business of renting, leasing, or letting living quarters, sleeping accommodations, rooms or a part thereof, in connection with any hotel, motel or tourist court”. The taxpayer under this original lodging tax was required to remit to the City a license tax equal to “2% of the gross rental receipts derived from or paid by transient guests for sleeping accommodations,” with a minimum license tax of five dollars per quarter-annual license.
In 1998, the voters of the City approved a ballot measure to increase the lodging tax using the following language: Shall the City of Springfield increase the tax paid by guests using hotels, motels, and tourist courts for sleeping accommodations from two (2) percent to four and one-half (4 ½) percent to promote recreation, education, tourism and the local economy in order to carry out the recommendations of the Vision 20/20 Citizen’s Committee and the Commission on Travel and Tourism by developing Civic Park, constructing an indoor ice facility and making capital grants available for projects to assist not-for-profit organizations who promote these activities such as the Discovery Center, the Gillioz and the Landers Theaters, Dickerson Park Zoo and the American National Fish and Wildlife Living Museum and Aquarium with the tax increase to end with the last debt service payment?
A short-term rental is the rental of a furnished living space with fewer than nine bedrooms available for short periods of time, from a few days up to thirty days. Short-term rentals are also commonly known as vacation rentals and are considered an alternative to a hotel.
Short-term rentals are taxed and licensed just like hotels/motels and motor courts, in many other cities.
Currently, 2.5% of the tax is scheduled to sunset when the last debt service payment of the Jordan Valley Ice Park has been paid (projected to be in 2028). If passed, this initiative would eliminate the sunset completely.
Springfield’s City Charter serves as Springfield’s constitution. It was adopted in 1953. Any amendments to the charter require a vote of the people it serves.
Proposed changes include language related to human resources and hiring and reducing the time required for contract approval.
This ballot measure proposes an amendment to section 2.16 of the City Charter, pertaining to contracts and bidding and would allow the City Council to approve acceptance of a bid and entry into a contract with the successful bidder in a singular City Council meeting.
Passage of this amendment would reduce the time to award bids and contracts by at least two weeks, which may increase the number of bidders
This amendment would in no way change adopted bidding requirements. If approved, this Charter change would go into effect upon passage.
Reducing the approval time improves the City’s ability to fit a project into the construction season. With the complexity of Public Works projects (right of way acquisition, utility conflicts, federal approvals, etc.), it can be difficult to start the project as early in the construction season as possible. Some items such as asphalt paving, come late in the project and cannot occur once the weather gets too cold. In those cases, finishing the projects may be delayed until the following spring. Avoiding the delay can potentially reduce costs.
Decreasing the approval time could attract more bidders with the current challenges with the supply chain. Once the contractor submits a bid, they are at risk to changes in pricing for the materials needed for a project. Shortening the approval time may reduce the risk of commodity prices going up and make it more attractive to bid a project.
Several wording updates are proposed throughout the Charter, such as replacing the word “Personnel” with “Human Resources.”
Additional proposed edits would allow the City to provide a reasonable hiring preference to all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty.
Also, updated language would delegate authority to the Human Resources director to remove certain categories of employees, revising the description of “classified employees.”
The ballot measure also addresses protocols for former employees requesting reinstatement to their former position and provides a possible option for the director of Human Resources to waive the testing requirement when they seek reinstatement in less than one year.
Several of the proposed changes in this section are considered “housekeeping” items to update the Charter language. Additional changes would add definition, provide flexibility and in general adjust hiring and employment processes.