Baker voters will decide Saturday whether the city can impose a 5 percent additional tax on hotel rooms and overnight campsites in the city.
In September, when the Baker City Council voted to seek approval from the State Bond Commission to put the tax on the ballot, council member Pete Heine stressed that Baker residents would not pay the tax unless they stay in a hotel in the city.
Baker has two hotels, Western Inn and Executive Inn on La. 19, but it is possible that another could be built in the near future, Baker Mayor Harold Rideau said.
There are also at least two recreational vehicle and camping parks in the city.
The proposed tax, which is up to 5 percent, has no expiration date and would be levied beginning Jan. 1 if voters approve it. Rideau said if it passes, he expects Baker leaders will impose the full 5 percent tax.
The tax is expected to bring in $25,000 to $30,000 per year.
A law sponsored by state Rep. Dalton Honoré at the request of the city allows Baker to ask voters to levy the tax and requires it to be used “to fund parks and recreation programs in the city.”
Since the money could not be spent on parks owned by BREC or other entities, it would likely go to improve City Park, the only park in Baker that is owned by the city.
Located on Groom Road, the park has a limestone walking/running track and playground and exercise equipment. The track gets a lot of use because the limestone surface is easier on knees and ankles than asphalt, Rideau said.
“I would improve lighting around the track, then improve the surface of the track, and build a pavilion, if there is money left. That’s my vision,” he said.
A pavilion with benches would allow people to have family functions and barbecues in the park. In the future, the city could also add more playground equipment to the existing play structure.
“We want to make the park more citizen friendly, so people can come and enjoy it,” Rideau said.
Since Rideau’s term as mayor ends in June and he does not plan to seek re-election, money from the proposed tax would probably be used by the next administration.
On Oct. 24, a similar tax passed in Zachary, which also has two hotels, winning 53 percent of the vote.
East Baton Rouge Parish already imposes a 4 percent tax on hotel rooms in Baker. Visit Baton Rouge, which promotes tourism in the parish, receives 3 percent of that tax and the remaining 1 percent is used to retire debt on the Baton Rouge River Center.
The total hotel tax in East Baton Rouge Parish, including local and state taxes, is 12.41 percent.