The latest version of the state budget bill includes a path for charging a hotel bed tax in the county to fund renovations of the Dayton Convention Center. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Dayton mayor apologizes, says suburbs key in convention center plan

Miami Twp. leaders oppose hotel tax increase proposal.

A plan to save the Dayton Convention Center with the help of a countywide lodging tax increase must include suburban communities, where most of the hotel/motel rooms are located, Dayton’s mayor said Thursday.

Mayor Nan Whaley said the input of suburban leaders in running the convention center – now owned by Dayton — is a key element in a proposal to make the facility a regional attraction.

“I am hopeful that as we go through this, they will see the value of the convention center being a regional asset,” she said.

Whaley’s comments came after trustees in Miami Twp. – which has 27 percent of the lodging rooms in the county – criticized a state budget bill that includes a path for Montgomery County to add 3 percent to its current 3 percent lodging tax to help fund the convention center.

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Miami Twp. Trustee Donald Culp said there was no communication with his jurisdiction for a proposal he said would create more taxes in his community without it seeing a direct benefit.

“The city of Dayton provides only 17 percent of available rooms, and that percentage is steadily decreasing, while Montgomery County suburbs provide more than 80 percent of the hotel rooms,” Culp said during a meeting Tuesday night. “Yet this 100 percent increase in the county hotel/motel tax would only benefit the city of Dayton and its convention center.”

Whaley said she talked with Culp Wednesday “and apologized for us not really talking with other communities about it.”

“I think there was a miscommunication on our side. We thought the convention and visitors bureau – since they had a relationship countywide – would be doing that. And that didn’t happen.”

However, the head of convention and visitors bureau - who also served on the Dayton Convention Center Task Force - said that would not be part of that organization’s role.

“I was surprised and confused by Mayor Whaley’s comment that our organization would be consulting with the jurisdictions regarding the future of the Convention Center or a proposed increase to the lodging tax,” CVB President and CEO Jacquelyn Y. Powell said in an email.

“At no time did the task force or the city direct the Dayton CVB to have those conversations,” she added. “In fact, it would be inappropriate for our organization to do that considering we do not own or operate the convention center, nor does the CVB collect the lodging tax. The Dayton CVB’s directive, as a result of the task force recommendations, was to discuss and communicate with the County’s hoteliers which we have done and will continue to do.”

Whaley said Miami Twp. was correct that it should have been consulted.

“I think (Culp) recognizes what we’re trying to do, and I think Miami Twp. wants to be in the conversation moving forward,” she said.

“This is just one step, and as we move forward, we’ll definitely include them and correct that oversight,” she said.

Whaley said, “I was really focused on the state legislators because we were trying to get in the budget bill. And I didn’t do that work with the other communities.”

Dayton is the only city in the state that runs its own convention center, local officials said. Others are operated by authorities similar to what Dayton wants the county to establish, they said.

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Huber Heights City Manager Rob Schommer echoed Miami Twp.’s concerns Thursday. The city has about 440 hotel rooms.

“The concern we have is the need for a thorough review of the impact on the outer ring municipalities like Huber Heights and their hotels for justification of a blanket tax on the entire county to subsidize the downtown amenity,” Schommer said in an email.

“In other words, is there data to support if hotels located in Huber Heights contribute to events at the convention center and have an impact that justifies a room tax increase in Huber Heights?” he added.

The current version of the state budget bill, HB166, includes a provision that would allow county commissioners to pass a resolution to create a convention facilities authority that would be allowed to levy up to a 3-percent additional hotel lodging tax across the county.

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The House and Senate have set a July 17 vote to adopt a final version of the bill. The lodging tax hike was one of eight Dayton Convention Center Task Force recommendations adopted by the Dayton City Commission, officials said.

If the convention center proposal is approved by the state, the county commission would then need to vote to establish the panel to run the facility.

After the state vote on HB166, “if some form of this (convention center) legislation is enacted, we will then engage our community partners to consider next steps,” Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said in a statement Thursday.

While representation on the convention center panel would be a county decision, Whaley said she would “advocate for communities that are carrying a larger load of the hotel/motel tax, which a portion of that would be funding the convention center, to be on this authority. Because the whole point was the convention center is a regional asset.”

If approved by the state and the county, Whaley said she understands the group created to run the convention center would have about 11 members, only three of which represent the city of Dayton. Other members could come from surrounding communities, she said.

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