NORMAN — Norman City Council members did not reach a consensus at Tuesday’s finance meeting over whether the time is right to ask voters to approve an increase in the hotel/motel room tax. Hoteliers at the meeting said they would support a small increase but ask that those dollars work to promote tourism in Norman.
Under discussion was the funding of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is funded below the regional average.
“Our budget is below Stillwater,” said NCVB Executive Director Stephen Koranda, who told the finance committee that Norman’s CVB is the lowest funded of the Big 12.
“That daily hurts our efforts in trying to keep market share, much less get more market share,” Koranda said.
That doesn’t mean he believes a guest tax increase needs to come immediately. In fact, he thinks it may be better to hold off for a while on that increase. In the meantime, he’d like the city to look into alternative forms of tourism funding. He said Woodward is looking at the possibility of a Tourism Improvement District, a public-private partnership mechanism popular in California.
Tourism Improvement Districts have spread up the coast and into Texas. Officials in Woodward believe Oklahoma law will allow for the districts. If the state has the legislation, cities can look at whether that funding mechanism would be right for their locations.
Norman Arts Council Executive Director Erinn Gavaghan said money from the room tax is key to funding public art in the city.
“Norman is really looked up to as an excellent art community,” Gavaghan said. “We excel with a very limited amount of funds.”
The current room tax in Norman is divided between the convention and visitors bureau (which gets 50 percent of the money), the arts (which gets 25 percent) and parks (which gets 25 percent). In many cities, all of the money from city hotel/motel tax goes to tourism promotion.