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Boone County FC approves hotel tax increase; final step for funding NKY Convention Center expansion

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By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The Boone County Fiscal Court Tuesday unanimously approved a 1 percent increase in the hotel tax that will be used to help fund an expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Moore

Kenton and Campbell counties had previously approved the increase on the transient room tax and the decision by Boone County allows it to go into effect.

Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore said that, while the increase requires approval of the three Northern Kentucky fiscal courts, it is not a tax that will be collected by the counties or imposed on residents.

“This is an item that was brought to us by the industry. The Convention and Visitors Bureau, on behalf of all its partners came to us and to the other two counties asking for this to be imposed,” Moore said. “This is a room tax collected by the hotels and then it is sent to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to be budgeted there.”

The proposed increase received unanimous approval from fiscal court members in all three counties that were present at the time of each vote. Kenton County Commissioner Beth Sewell was not in attendance when the vote was taken there.

The funding model is similar to the 2.5 percent hotel bed tax increase implemented in Lexington to pay for its new convention center.

Eric Summe, president of meetNKY, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the fiscal courts showed strong regional cooperation in approving the increase.

“This really underscores how our fiscal courts understand how important tourism is and how important it is to have a competitive convention center,” Summe said.

The tourism industry brings an estimated $400 million to the region each year.

The need to expand the 204,000-square-foot convention center, which was built in 1998, has been a hot topic for some time. The transient room tax increase as a way to help pay for that expansion has received strong backing in the region’s business community.

Left to right, Eric Summe, president of meetNKY, Pat Crowley of Strategic Advisers, and Brent Cooper president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, attended Tuesday’s Boone County Fiscal Court meeting to show support for a hotel tax increase. The Fiscal Court unanimously voted in favor of the increase, previously approved by Campbell and Kenton counties, which will provide funding for the expansion of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington (photo by Mark Hansel)

Brent Cooper, interim president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, attended Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting to show support for the ordinance.

“We think it’s a great move to keep our region competitive and moving forward, so we’re thrilled,” Cooper said.

The increase is expected to go into effect October 1, to allow hotels time to make the adjustments to their billing. There are an estimated 78 hotels and bed and breakfasts in the three Northern Kentucky counties, with a total of almost 7,000 rooms.

“The increase is forecast to generate $1.2 to $1.5 million annually,” Summe said. “That is part of our plan and it’s what Lexington did in creating a capital fund for seed money for its project.”

The capital fund in Northern Kentucky will ultimately be used to complete the project but there are other things that need to be done in the interim that also come with a cost.

“We will do an immediate expenditure for a tourism master plan, which will basically look at not only how to expand it, but by how much and at other infrastructure needs around the convention center area,” Summe said. “We will look at things like necessary hotel supply, other vibrancy, which is taking place through projects like Riverfront Commons and other Covington developments. It will be a full scale plan.”

There is speculation that the IRS facility that is adjacent to the convention center could accommodate the expansion, but there is much uncertainty about when that property might become available for development.

“I know that the facility is scheduled to close in 2019 and that’s why this ordinance was so important,” Summe said. “If we’re going to be waiting, we’re doing something productive so, when the time comes we are going to be prepared. Part of the solution we hope to find with the study is how to expand and that includes direction.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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