Innkeeper’s tax gets first OK

After years of debate and discussion, the county has given initial approval to a tax on hotel and motel stays.

Johnson County Council members have approved an innkeeper’s tax. The tax would charge 5 percent on every local hotel and motel stay, and the money would go to a tourism bureau to promote local attractions. At least 70 counties in Indiana charge the tax, and Johnson County is the only one in central Indiana that does not.

The tax still needs final approval before it would be collected starting next year. County council members gave the tax a first OK with a vote of 6-1. Council member Beth Boyce voted against the measure.

County officials have discussed the tax for years. But each time it has been turned down. One of the key concerns was how the money would be spent.

State law allows a county to approve and charge an innkeeper’s tax if the money would go to a local tourism and visitors bureau. That organization, which would include a board of directors appointed by local officials, would spend the money collected was promote Johnson County. If the money were to go to any other expenses, it would need approval from state lawmakers.

In the past, officials had raised concerns about how that agency would spend the money collected, estimated to be between $500,000 and $700,000 per year. That was a key reason why the tax failed to be approved last year.

Council member James Ison brought the tax up for consideration again this year. He has said that, while the appointed board for the tourism bureau would be in charge of creating the budget, the county could discuss what that budget should look like.

Ison proposed the tax again because he said it was an opportunity the county was missing out on to promote itself, especially since others in central Indiana already are collecting and using the tax.

Council member Loren Snyder said he has been a proponent of the tax and believes it will be helpful in marketing many local attractions.

“Overall this is an economic positive for our community in the long term and something that will be a good thing,” he said.

Before Ison, other supporters had brought up the tax, including Aspire Johnson County, an initiative of the Johnson County Development Corp. to gather community leaders to brainstorm, research and put into action ways to make the county more attractive.

The tax is expected to come up for a second and final vote at the county council meeting next month. It would go into effect in January, though officials have discussed phasing the tax in so local hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts could prepare.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.