Whether the city's hotel/motel occupancy tax should be increased to help generate funding for the Bell County Expo Center will be addressed at today's 1 p.m. Killeen City Council workshop at City Hall.

Several weeks ago Mitchell Jacobs, president of the Expo's board of directors, went to the City Council and proposed increasing the hotel/motel occupancy tax countywide in efforts to fund an expansion project for the center and to get its budget out of the red.

"The board wanted some facts and figures before formulating an opinion, so that is what is happening (today)," Precinct 4 County Commissioner John Fisher said.

The Expo Center is looking to expand its facilities to include an RV park, an equestrian center and additional parking. Total costs for the project are estimated at $15 million, although Fisher said it could be even higher with the rising cost of construction and materials from the time the projected cost was calculated.

Currently, hotels and motels in Salado pay a 10 percent occupancy tax, and those in Killeen, Temple and Belton pay 13 percent, which is the same as in Georgetown and Waco. Fisher said anywhere from 2 to 3 percent could be imposed on top of the existing tax, but that would require special legislation.

If this comes to pass, Bell County would have the highest hotel/motel taxes in Central Texas and in some cities, could be either equal to or exceed Austin's 15 percent occupancy tax.

John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, said Texas cities are allowed to collect a total of 13 percent for the occupancy tax; anything over that must be authorized by special legislation, an idea Bell County officials are now in the preliminary stages of exploring.

Ultimately, Crutchfield said, it is up to the county, not individual cities, whether legislation should be pushed forward.

"The Expo Board has explored other alternate ways of funding and has found the hotel tax to be an acceptable way of generating the funds," Fisher said, adding that there are several ways in which the county would benefit.

"This is a mechanism in which to fund the expansion without saddling the burden of a property tax increase on our residents," he said.

Also, the expansion of the center will serve as an economic generator, he said, where local businesses can reap the benefits from drawing a larger crowd of outside spenders.

Fisher said they are contacting city officials and the chambers of commerce throughout the county for their input.

Also today, the Killeen City Council will discuss whether it will formally adopt the Downtown Revitalization Action Plan recommended by the consulting firm, HyettPalma.

Director of Community Development Leslie Hinkle said the City Council has seen the agenda and has been briefed of its contents.

"The Killeen Downtown Action Agenda is a five-year strategic course of action, and HyettPalma is recommending the city formally adopt is as their guide for downtown revitalization," she said.

Numerous actions are recommended for revitalizing the downtown area, and HyettPalma advises that at the end of each year, the implementation sequence should be updated.

Some of the recommended actions for the first year include: formally adopting the Killeen Downtown Action Agenda 2007 as the downtown element of the city's Comprehensive Plan; creating a live entertainment venue in the former sanctuary of the former First Baptist Church building; working with H-E-B to enhance and expand or to build a new facility; and moving the farmers market and expanding it.

Once the action agenda has been formally adopted, Hinkle said the council will most likely form a committee that will be responsible for implementing the plan.

Contact Jennifer Phonexayphova at jennifer@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7553.

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