Board to allocate innkeeper’s funds

Starting Friday, people will pay 5 percent more to stay in local bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels or college dorms.

An estimated $600,000 to $700,000 per year will be collected through a new tax, known as the innkeeper’s tax. The money will go toward promoting Johnson County businesses, events and attractions. Within the next few months, a board of nine residents will decide how that money should be spent. Funds collected could be used to set up a visitors center, establish a website to promote the area or pay for marketing materials, such as billboards or brochures.

By the end of 2016, the board will need to approve a budget for how the money will be spent, appoint a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, and set a schedule for when it will meet. The budget has to be approved by the newly created board and the Johnson County Council.

Earlier this year, the county council approved the innkeeper’s tax, which will tack on 5 percent to any hotel or bed and breakfast stay in the county. The county had discussed the tax for years, which is collected in all other central Indiana counties, but never approved it.

Although the money will start being collected Friday, funds cannot be spent toward promoting local attractions or tourism until Jan. 1, 2017, under state law.

In order to decide how that money should be spent, the county is required to set up a convention, visitor and tourism board of nine local residents appointed by the county commissioners and the Greenwood mayor. Five members have to work for a tourism business or work in promoting local visitation or conventions. At least two board members have to work in the lodging industry, if available and willing. And no more than five of the nine board members can be from the same political party, according to state law.

So far, the commissioners have appointed six members, and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers hopes to name the others in the next two weeks. Residents filled out applications to be considered for two-year, unpaid terms on the board.

Newly appointed board member Megan Bowman, who is the Johnson County Parks and Recreation superintendent, said she wants to bring more visitors to all of the area businesses. Although individual businesses might promote themselves, residents and visitors should be aware of all that Johnson County provides in the way of entertainment, restaurants, breweries and attractions, she said.

“We’re all on the same team,” Bowman said.

The board could establish a website or office for anyone to visit and see what all of Johnson County has to offer. For example, residents might know about local restaurants in Greenwood but have never heard of the brewery in Bargersville or seen what programming the Johnson County Public Library has available, she said.

“I love it here, and I want more people to know about it,” Bowman said.

Janice Bullman, executive director of Franklin Chamber of Commerce, said she wanted to join the board to give Johnson County an identity.

“We have so much to offer here,” Bullman said, “and even some of our own residents don’t realize what all we have to offer here.”

At a glance

Here are the six people the commissioners appointed to the convention and tourism board last week:

  • Megan Bowman, superintendent of Johnson County Parks and Recreation
  • Sarah Brown, co-owner of The Apple Works in Trafalgar
  • Janice Bullman, executive director of Franklin Chamber of Commerce
  • Nathan Hueselbusch, president of Taxman Brewing Co. in Bargersville
  • Laura Richardson, co-owner of Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville
  • Kim Smith, co-owner of the Ashley-Drake Historic Inn in Franklin