A committee of Belleville City Council members voted unanimously Thursday night to raise the city’s hotel and motel tax and give $5.5 million of the tax revenue to the developer of a multisport complex with 11 soccer fields off Illinois 15 next to the planned Hofbrauhaus, hotel, convention center and restaurant development.
The proposed development agreement with Kansas City-based Game On Sports Development, the developer of the soccer park, calls for increasing the city’s hotel and motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.
The city’s Economic Development and Annexation Committee’s unanimous vote sends the plan to the Finance Committee, which meets on Sept. 3. The plan would not become final unless the City Council approves it on Sept. 8.
The city plans to give 50 percent of the hotel and motel tax to the Keller family of Effingham, the developers of the Hofbrauhaus complex, 25 percent to Game On Sports Development and the city would keep the remaining 25 percent.
While all of the aldermen expressed support for the soccer park and Hofbrauhaus projects, which have a combined value of up to $73 million, there was disagreement on Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore’s suggestion that the city raise the hotel and motel sales tax to 9 percent and designate the extra money for a street repair fund.
“Just throwing it into the general fund means there will be more money spent everywhere but our streets. If we actually did hit an emergency funding situation, we can always make adjustments. But our streets have become an emergency situation,” said Elmore, who is not a member of the Economic Development and Annexation Committee but spoke during the public participation part of the meeting.
“What we hear on a daily basis from the people who put us into office is ‘Fix our streets.’ Our streets are decaying. Our street department runs around all day long throwing out expensive patch work, oil and chip work constantly putting Band-Aids on gaping holes,” said Elmore, who calls the Illinois 15 projects “great.”
Mayor Mark Eckert said he, too, hears complaints about street conditions in the city. But he recommended the committee keep the hotel and motel tax increase at 8 percent.
“Get these hotels coming out of the ground, get the soccer program going,” Eckert said. “We can always add another percent, we can always earmark it as we get going. But we have to walk before we run.”
But before any hotels or soccer fields are built at the site, the developers say they need the state to grant them a sales tax exemption on the purchase of construction materials.
Belleville has asked the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to extend the city’s enterprise zone to the Illinois 15 developments. Projects in these zones can qualify for the sales tax exemption.
City officials have been waiting for a decision from the state agency on this request.
David Thorman of Game On Sports Development told the committee that the state’s delay in ruling on the enterprise zone is holding up his project and he urges everyone who supports the soccer park and Hofbrauhaus development to write a letter to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and urge the agency to approve the enterprise zone extension.
Thorman said this sales tax break could be worth up to $300,000 for the soccer park, which would be operated by Kansas City-based Global Sports International, which operates a soccer park in Overland Park, Kan.
The Hofbrauhaus project could reap more than $1 million in sales tax savings if the enterprise zone is extended.
This request is different from the city’s request to create a new enterprise zone next summer when the current one expires. On Sunday, the state said “at this time” it would not certify 49 requests for new enterprise zones because of the budget impasse between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers.
Also, Thursday the city released a revised draft agreement with Game On Sports Development. One change calls for Game On Sports Development to invest a total of at least $10.2 million by March 2019 instead of June 2018. Thorman said the project is estimated to cost about $13 million.
The city has agreed to extend sewer lines to the Illinois 15 site and this will cost more than $2 million but the city has estimated it would collect $500,000 annually in sales tax from businesses in the development.
Earlier this year, the City Council granted $15.69 million in tax incentives to the Keller family for the Hofbrauhaus, hotel and restaurant project located across Illinois 15 from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. This project is valued at $50 million to $60 million.