On Tuesday, Shawnee voters firmly rejected the city's proposed 2.5 percent hotel/motel tax increase to bring in more revenue for tourism-related improvements. The City Question failed with more than twice as many voters — 6,931 (or 68.61 percent) — rallying against the proposal, while 3,171 votes (or 31.39 percent) showed support for it.

On Tuesday, Shawnee voters firmly rejected the city's proposed 2.5 percent hotel/motel tax increase to bring in more revenue for tourism-related improvements. The City Question failed with more than twice as many voters — 6,931 (or 68.61 percent) — rallying against the proposal, while 3,171 votes (or 31.39 percent) showed support for it.

Since the ballot measure failed the current tax remains at 5 percent.

“There is no immediate plan to seek added revenue for the [Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center],” City Manager Justin Erickson said. “As staff, we will be focused on identifying the needs at the Expo and presenting those to elected officials.”

The Expo Trust is working on a master plan that will evaluate the current status and future needs at the facility, he said.

“We are also focused on the remodel of the Conference Center and are excited by the partnership between the City, Expo Trust, Avedis and Pottawatomie County that helped to make the project happen,” he said.

He said he expects that the Expo will be discussed at future commission workshops.

Since March Shawnee City Commissioners have discussed at length the issue of whether to raise the hotel/motel tax for tourists.

The Expo –– the city's biggest tourist draw –– agreeably costly, but worthwhile –– could benefit from added revenue if the tax was higher, commissioners said. The board agreed that other revitalization efforts could also use a hand up –– including downtown.

The challenge commissioners ultimately faced was how much to raise the tax — yet still be competitive — and then how to divvy up the new funds.

Erickson, in looking neighboring rates, said he tried to come up with a number that was competitive, yet would remain a bit below some others in the area. Due to his research, he settled on 7.5 percent.

This summer the board made a resolution calling for an election –– for residents to decide whether to amend the present hotel/motel surcharge ordinance –– raising it to 7.5 percent of gross receipts or $1 per rental day, whichever was greater.

Commissioners in July were divided 4-2 on whether to approve the proposal: Then-Mayor Wes Mainord, Commissioners Ron Gillham Sr., James Harrod and then-Commissioner Keith Hall supported the measure, while Commissioners Lesa Shaw and Micheal Dykstra voted against it. The Ward 1 seat was empty at the time.

Shaw said she was concerned about how the increase might affect business for area hotel owners.

Erickson said he had spoken to some hotel owners and reported they did have some concerns.

Estimates indicate a 1-percent increase could generally bring in $100,000 per year, Erickson said — meaning the added tax could have conservatively brought in more than $200,000 per year.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.