After picking up support for its bed-tax plan from the city of Delaware, Delaware County and multiple state officials, the Delaware County Fair board is looking for the city of Powell’s backing.
Board member H.C. “Chip” Thomson went before Powell City Council July 1 to ask for a resolution of support for a plan to raise the county’s lodging tax by 3 percent. Council has not yet voted on the issue.
The increased tax revenue would be used for permanent improvements at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in the county seat. Before the increase can be enacted, it must be approved by the state legislature.
The Delaware County Fair is self-funded by revenue from gate admissions and rentals of the race track and other buildings. County commissioners also sometimes offer some funding for special projects.
“Due to the age of the facility, most of which was built before World War II, the needs of the fairgrounds far exceed the help the commissioners are able to offer,” Thomson said.
The deterioration of the fairgrounds’ facilities eventually could lead to the end of the annual fair and its signature event, the Little Brown Jug harness race, Thomson said.
Last year, the fair made $42,000. Thomson said the fair lost money in the past when inclement weather has driven down gate receipts.
Fair officials have estimated the increased tax on hotels would raise $190,000 annually for permanent improvements at the fairgrounds. Thomson said projects to upgrade the fairgrounds’ roads and electrical system could cost upwards of $1 million each.
Delaware County currently has a 3 percent bed tax that supports the Delaware County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city of Delaware and Berkshire and Orange townships have additional 3 percent taxes on hotel rooms in their jurisdictions.
Liberty Township also has a 3 percent bed tax, but no hotels have been built in the township.
Thomson said the county’s effective 9 percent bed tax, if the fair board’s request is implemented, still would be competitive with Columbus. That city’s hotels, including Polaris-area hotels in Delaware County, have a 10-percent bed tax.
“The fair board feels that this is a reasonable way to raise the resources it needs while not straining the county government or its taxpayers,” Thomson said.
He said an amendment has been made to Ohio House Bill 490 that would allow Delaware County to institute the additional tax. Neither the House or Senate has approved the measure.
Thomson said the amendment has the support of state Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and state Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl (R-Mount Vernon). He said the fair board still is seeking the support of state Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander).
Thomson said the fair board is not considering seeking a property-tax levy in deference to the local school districts and the Council for Older Adults.
“The Delaware County Fair doesn’t want to compete against Olentangy schools,” he said. “That would be irresponsible and wrong.”