BELEN — With more money coming into the city’s coffers via its lodgers tax, Belen will now be able to improve upon its city-held events and increase advertising for them.
The Belen City Council unanimously approved amending its lodgers tax ordinance last month by increasing the lodgers tax from 4 to 5 percent. The tax is placed on visitors staying at local motels, hotels and in short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs.
This tax provides revenue to use in promoting tourist-related events and other activities, including advertising for promotion of events that support tourist-related facilities.
Josh Kerns, the city’s parks and recreation director, told the council at its June 20 meeting the amendment to the ordinance was recommended by the New Mexico Hospitality Association.
“The city of Carlsbad has made these changes to its ordinance … and we’re looking to increase the lodgers tax from 4 to 5 percent, and also adding an occupancy tax for buildings with three rooms or less,” Kerns said. “Also, temporary or short-term housing is not excluded anymore.”
Kerns explained two of the local hotels on Camino del Llano that cater only to the BNSF railroad will now have to pay the city’s lodgers tax, which they didn’t prior to the passage of the amended ordinance.
“The (amended) ordinance is going toward these hotels, and they will be obligated to pay the lodgers tax,” Kerns said. “I met with the secretary of tourism, and a lot of municipalities are having the same problem.”
Kerns said Carlsbad couldn’t collect lodgers tax from hotels renting to the oil and gas industry, much like the railroad in Belen.
“They changed the state statute two years ago, and municipalities are now starting to incorporate this,” he said. “Carlsbad was one of the first cities to do this.”
Kerns told the council the city will see extra funding to support city-held events throughout the year.
“With the cost of everything going up, such as fireworks, it will help,” Kerns said. “It will also help with the cost of event staff, fire and police. It also helps with the cost of marketing.”
Kerns said the funding will also be used for branding and beautification projects.
When asked how much extra funding the city will experience with the change in law, Kerns said it’s hard to say but estimated it could double or even triple what the city is now receiving. He said Belen currently brings in an average of $32,000 to $35,000 in lodgers tax a year.
In other business, the city councilors:
- Approved an SU-1 overlay zone over existing R-1 zoning on the West Mesa for possible use of a solar array;
- Approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of general obligation improvement bonds for a police station;
- Approved the appointments of Bob Dorsey and J.B. Reeber to the Belen Historic Properties Review Board;
- Approved the appointment of Summer Ludwig to the TIF Committee; and
- Approved the police union contract.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.