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Letter: Don’t be fooled by the Hospitality Tax

First off I’d like to express my empathy for the City of Bemidji property taxpayers, especially the ones who took the opportunity to vote against the sales tax extension to slowly pay off the Events Center. I’m sure most of you remember your City Council and City Manager (City) stating that your property taxes would not be affected. Oh and remember that huge bait and switch, the Events Center was going to cost half as much and revitalize the depressed railroad corridor area of downtown? Now the rhetoric is we must pass a hospitality tax for property tax relief. Hard to believe especially when you look at the track record of the City. The City states they will dedicate $400,000 of the hospitality tax to offset property taxes. News flash: The City’s levy (property taxes) goes up approx. $400,000 every year. So in one year we are back to square one and the hospitality tax will go on and on and on. Sounds like another bait and switch which the City perfected. What the hospitality tax will do is infuriate people and drive a bigger wedge between the Events Center and potential patrons. The tax will perpetuate and enable the inefficiencies of how the Events Center is run and make it dependent on taxpayers forever. Look at the City’s Neilson-Reise arena, average annual operating loss of 70,000/year vs. the Bemidji Community Arena by the high school, no taxpayer help. Plus they are almost already debt free on a multi-million dollar facility. Why? Because they have to be, no one to bail them out, they run it like a business.

The Pioneer should be ashamed when they wrote their editorial “Hospitality tax should be passed.” Another example of their distorted journalism that clouds the facts and misinforms readers to support a personal agenda. The City is hiring a lobbyist, with taxpayer’s money, to ramrod the hospitality tax thru, so the City can tax us more. Is that how taxpayers want their money spent?

Solution? There are a lot, Business Owners of Bemidji have asked for the opportunity to have an open forum between the City, Venue Works and themselves to share their ideas to cut the losses without another tax! We are still waiting City. Please urge the legislators to vote against the hospitality tax bill or vote them out.

Karl Jacobson