Voters on both Caddo and Bossier Parishes, but especially the latter, face some Trojan Horse proposals that likely will raise their taxes come late this year and early next year if they approve these.
In both parishes, a new 2 percent tax would be levied on hotel rooms and camping sites, with proceeds going to the Shreveport-Bossier Conventions and Tourist Bureau’s Sports Commission to attract sports events, the Independence Bowl Foundation for it to beef up payouts for the bowl game and to get Division I schools to play neutral site games at Independence Stadium, and essentially to subsidize Shreveport Regional Airport so that it can pay carriers to provide added service. It is estimated it would bring in over $2 million a year.
As usual, supporters argue this only can bring benefits to the area because “others” will be paying the extra fee, not area residents. And, just as typically, this ignores that the added cost to lodging will discourage. So maybe bribing events, teams, and airlines might get more of them to come to the area – only then to jack up lodging costs for teams, fans, and other area visitors that drives up their lodging costs, which serves as a disincentive to want to come. There’s no evidence to suggest that the cost of lost jobs and negative spillover effects on local businesses by an artificial increase in lodging prices will be less than any presumed gains from increased visitation on the tax coffers of local governments.
Further, there’s little real need to take from Peter to pay Paul for these entities. The Bureau sits on a nice chunk of change already (almost half of its entire net worth is in unrestricted cash as of last year), the Foundation continues to struggle with making the enterprise self-sufficient (in part because of the difficulty in marketing an area without a Division I team with indifferent game time weather and from a relatively small metropolitan area with plenty of competition from other entertainment venues) even with a $300,000 gift from state taxpayers this year, and the Airport continues to be a high-priced venue compared to its peer group (it had the highest price of any airport its size and above in 2009, and even now among those with originating passengers between 100,000 and 200,000 annually, as of 2013 it ranks 16th highest of the 56), so its priority should be internal changes to lower costs to airlines. Making these enterprises more competitive rather than asking government to collude in collecting a handout will provide more in the way of economic benefits.
Bossier voters additionally might pile more taxes onto themselves. The Bossier Parish Council on Aging seeks approval of a 1 mill property tax levy, worth almost $1 million a year, to fund its activities, which would represent nearly 88 percent of its entire revenues from last year. The stated idea is that local Bossier governments could discontinue about $281,000 of subsidization in exchange, in order to “stabilize” funding.
But this would increase the amount of revenue coming into the nonprofit organization at least a predicted $679,000 above last year. And there’s no guarantee – with history suggesting otherwise – that the local governments would not spend what they are saving on something else, so taxpayers will see none of it. In other words, this isn’t a swap of tax dollars coming to the group indirectly now redirected to its receiving them directly; it’s a wholesale soaking of homeowners, renters, businesses, and customers if passed for a special interest written in stone through 2024.
If the public wants to pony up more of what they earn to one outfit, far better than locking in a much greater obligation for the next ten years would be to handle it as it is now, through the annual appropriation process that grants needed flexibility for policy-makers deciding on behalf of their constituents. Both this tax increase on Bossierites and the occupancy fee increase deserve defeat on Nov. 4.