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University of Missouri backs proposed lodging tax increase

The University of Missouri and Shelter Insurance came out in support of the city’s proposed lodging tax hike at Wednesday’s REDI board meeting.

This comes just one day after the Columbia Hospitality Association panned the proposal for its lack of transparency, namely that the city hasn’t presented a business plan for the use of the tax money.

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he’s sat in on meetings with all of the key players in the decision and he’s come to his own opinion, one that supports the proposal.

He said he agrees there should be a business plan, but first the city should get their financial resources in order to make sure they have the money for any sort of plan.

“What we really need to do is to prove to the FAA that we’re serious about wanting to improve air traffic and capacity,” he said.

Despite a budget shortfall for the university, it’s still willing to back the tax even though it’ll stand to pay thousands of dollars extra for their out of town guests if it passes. Skala said he believes its because the university depends on the airport as much as the city depends on the university.

“The university is an economic driver in this town there’s no question about it,” he said. “They are solidly in back of airport expansion because when people come here from companies or associated with the university, almost universally you hear how difficult it is to get here.”

Hoteliers also worried about the return on their investment. They said they’re putting up the only source of funds at this point without any real guarantee it’ll pay off, especially in attraction new airlines or flights.

Skala said he isn’t worried.

“If we had a new facility that has the capacity for security, general aviation, for passenger travel, and enables this kind of air traffic capacity, I think they will come,” he said.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce has voted unanimously to support the tax. The Government Affairs committee also voted 19-4 to support the tax.

City leaders believe there is a general support for the tax, but the council will have the ultimate decision on Monday when it is scheduled to vote on the ballot language.

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