Sunday, March 22, 2015

Columbia Regional Airport (KCOU), Missouri: City Council candidates offer their views on tax for new airport terminal

COLUMBIA — Candidates for three seats on the Columbia City Council in the April 7 election responded in writing to 10 Missourian questions about city government issues. Here is the question the Missourian asked about whether a higher lodging tax to help pay for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport is a good idea. The responses appear in the order the candidates will appear on the ballot.

Would you support an increase in the city’s tax on hotel and motel rooms to help pay for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport? Why or why not?


John Clark: No.

More people come to Columbia by other transportation means than air.

Expanded public transit is more important to sustainable and equitable economic development that will have a positive impact on jobs, income and our environment.

We should focus our efforts on creating a Central Missouri Regional Airport Authority (CMRAA), funded by multiple mid-Missouri entities.

Ask voters to approve a separate funding source for our portion of CMRAA costs.

Clyde Ruffin: I believe that Columbia will benefit tremendously by continuing to enhance the services that would be provided by a better equipped and more substantial airport terminal. Recent expansion efforts indicate that there is an emerging market for these services that would generate additional income for the city. As in all projects of this magnitude, I would assume that funding would have to be generated from several sources including federal and state grants, tax increases and the reallocation of city funds.

Rob Stewart: You should always tax the people that benefit the most. In other words you should tax people who are benefiting from the terminal, not people in hotels and motels. In many circumstances people living in hotels have nothing to do with the airport.

Rob Rasmussen: Currently the lodging tax is at 4 percent, one of the lowest statewide. It is reasonable to raise it. Community input should determine where we spend the additional money. I'm not opposed to enhancing the airport, I would want to weigh all of the options.

Sal Nuccio: No. I already hate the fact that hotels get to charge ridiculous amounts of tax on a room as it is, now the city wants to bend you over the barrel for a couple more bucks too ... Not right.

Jake Loft: At this time, I am unsure of an increase in the lodging tax to expand Columbia Regional Airport, but I do hold the position that we need to expand the airport to include more flights to destinations other than Dallas and Chicago. This could be done with a combination of things, ranging from charging for parking at the airport to restructuring the budget, expanding the airport needs to be a priority.

Dan Rader: Yes. It is my understanding that federal funds may be available to cover a significant portion of the costs of a new airport terminal. The city should issue bonds to cover the remaining portion of the costs, and the increased tax on hotel and motel rooms can be used to pay off the bonds. A functioning, respectable airport is crucial to our economic development and the perception that Columbia is a legitimate city.

Nate Brown: Not until other funding methods are explored. For example, what if the city built a new terminal that included retail/hotel, which could help pay for the new terminal? (Accommodations for Missourians who would find it easier to drive to/fly out of COU than travel to STL or KCI.) Or charge for parking? Let’s look at other alternatives before raising the hotel tax, which could hurt us when competing with other cities for conventions.

Chad Phillips: I would support an increase in the city’s tax on hotel and motel rooms to pay for a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport because our airport is essential to our growth and economic success. Without a new terminal, it will be extremely difficult to attract airlines and support new business at the Columbia Regional Airport.


Michael Trapp: At 4 percent, our lodging tax is one of the lowest in the state. Our hotels, motels, restaurants, and airport are mutually beneficial and help to create jobs. The hoteliers must be partners in any venture involving the lodging tax. With added flight capacity, there is clear need for a new terminal. Along with a sports authority and support for sports tourism, increased support for the airport could be a boon for Columbia and the region.

Paul Love: I would confer with the local hotels and motels to get their opinion. The tax was placed on those businesses with the idea that it would benefit those businesses by bringing more people to Columbia to stay, thereby increasing revenue. Take a poll of those and ask if they believe that a new terminal will increase their business or hurt their business.


Ryan Euliss: I would be in favor of the tax, but before I voted in favor of putting it on the ballot I would want to know what will happen to the current funds the airport is getting from the transportation sales tax. If the tax is for additional revenue to improve the airport above and beyond the money they are currently getting than it is a good tax because it guarantees the money will go there.

Betsy Peters: Yes. Mayor McDavid’s efforts to enhance air service to Columbia should be applauded. If we can continue to expand air connections, we will be able to justify the investment in a new terminal. Some federal funding may be available, but increasing the local lodging tax — currently near the lowest rate in the state — perhaps coupled with formation of a regional airport authority are obvious solutions that must be explored.

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