The Tourism Tax has been a huge help in supporting the cost of the city of Branson’s infrastructure and marketing for years.
Now, the citizens of Branson will have the chance to renew the Tourism Tax and bonding capacity, which is set to expire when the current outstanding bonds are repaid in January 2022, by voting in the April 6 Municipal Election. According to Pam Yancey, Chair of the Proactive Government Committee, who is spearheading the Tourism Tax Task Force, the Tourism Tax is in majority paid for by the tourists and visitors of Branson.
“It provides funds to improve and maintain public infrastructure and to market Branson’s tourism economy.
“Basically what the Tourism Tax (does) is it shifts the majority of the cost related to infrastructure maintenance and improvements from our residents to the visitors and tourists that come to the city of Branson,” said Yancey.
“The visitors and tourists pay about 92% of (the Tourism Tax), about 8% is (covered by) our local citizens and residents.”
Tourists and visitors pay this tax through the 4% that is charged on rooms, accommodations and tickets to area attractions; as well as the 0.5% that is charged on food and drink sales at restaurants and concessions.
“I’m not saying that we don’t pay some of it because we all go out to eat and we all go to a show, we all go to an attraction so there’s the 8%,” said Yancey.
The Tourism Tax, according to Yancey, is specifically on things that tourists and visitors utilize, not on everyday, day-to-day items.
“We’ve talked a lot about what the tax is: the tax is not a new tax; the businesses are not taxed, they collect and remit but they, the business owners, are not taxed,” said Yancey. “What it is not: it’s not a new tax, it’s not an increase and it doesn’t affect groceries, prescriptions, purchasing an auto, any of the retail; nothing like that is taxed.
“It’s the food and concessions and the lodging and attractions. On our normal, everyday, day-to-day items, it is not imposed on those things."
According to Yancey, it’s important to remember that this is not a new tax, this is a continuation of the tax that has been in place since 1997.
It’s also important to remember that without the Tourism Tax, and a large majority of these costs falling on the Branson visitor, the cost would then fall upon the Branson citizens and projects/updates to Branson’s infrastructure would be put on an indefinite hold.
“That would be sad (if the Tourism Tax continuation was not passed),” said Yancey. “If the Tourism Tax isn’t available and the city can’t issue new bonds to fund infrastructure projects then we’ll have to delay completing projects because the city does not have the resources to complete the projects without the funds from the Tourism Tax and the issuance of the bonds.
“So we wouldn’t have the money going forward to complete some of these projects that are very needed. (If not passed) those costs would shift, related to the infrastructure, to our local citizens.
“Somebody gave an example the other day of: you have a home and there may be four of you that live in your home and you have the infrastructure in your home to support a family of four. Then all of a sudden you have a bunch of visitors that come; let’s say you have 15 or 20 people that show up at your house to stay with you. All of a sudden you would not have the infrastructure in your home: enough restrooms and different things to provide for your guests. So in Branson, on any given weekend during different times of the year, we have anywhere from 50 to 70,000 daily visitors and so we have around 11,000 citizens here. So basically, is it fair to ask the citizens of the city of Branson to pay for the infrastructure for the 50 to 70,000 daily visitors that come to visit?”
The city of Branson has currently identified $88 million in projects related to infrastructure throughout the city.
These projects include:
- $9 million for lift station 30 : Cooper Creek Forcemain
- $10 million for the Compton Drive flood protection
- $14 million for the 76 Country Boulevard water mains
- $14 million for water/sewer infrastructure extensions to annexed areas currently underserved
- $15 million for water mains in Branson neighborhoods
- $26 million for the Cooper Creek Treatment Plant expansion
A few examples of impactful projects that have been completed in the past due to Tourism Tax funds include:
- $4,853,573 for the Compton Waste Water Treatment Plant redesign
- $1,416,875 for the lift station #21 equalization basin
- $2,564,556 for the joint project with MODOT for the Hwy 65/248 intersection
- $1,416,496 for street overlays in 2015/2016
- $3,189,569 for the lift station #30 upgrade
- $1,298,577 for the eight inch water main extension from Stockstill & Cahill Road area to the Branson North subdivision
The renewal for the Tourism Tax appears twice on the upcoming ballot and, according to Yancey, both must pass in order to continue collecting the Tourism Tax and continue sharing the cost of infrastructure and marketing with the visitors.
“We do have the support from the Tri-Lakes Board of Realtors, they did come out in support of this; Cox Medical Center Branson, Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB and then the Branson Area Lodging Association have all come out in support of a YES vote,” said Yancey. “The other thing I’d like to mention is there are two questions on the ballot and we have to have a YES vote on both of those so that we can continue to collect.”
The ballot questions will read as follows:
“Shall the municipality of Branson, Missouri issue bonds in the amount of $93,000,000 for the purpose of funding sidewalks, streets, highways, roads, waterworks, and wastewater including distribution and collection systems, and shall a tourism tax of 4.0% be imposed on the price paid or charged for rooms or accommodations for thirty days or less at hotels, motels, tourist courts, campground sites, condominium units, time-share interests in condominiums and the price charged for tickets and other charges for admission to or participation in private tourist attractions to repay such bonds or previously voter- approved bonded indebtedness and to promote tourism?”
“Shall the municipality of Branson, Missouri issue bonds in the amount of $93,000,000 for the purpose of funding sidewalks, streets, highways, roads, waterworks, and wastewater including distribution and collection systems, and shall a tourism tax of 0.5% be imposed on the price paid or charged for food and drinks sold in restaurants and other establishments to repay such bonds or previously voter-approved bonded indebtedness and promote tourism?”
According to the ‘City of Branson Government’ Facebook page, the Tourism Tax renewal needs to be approved by 4/7 of the voters who vote on the April ballot.
To learn more, visit the city of Branson’s education page regarding the Tourism Tax on their website at https://bransonmo.gov/847/City-of-Branson-Election-April-6-2021