Tourists Could See Price Increases in McDonald County

Tourists Could See Price Increases in McDonald County
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Big Elk Floats and Camping sees thousands of tourists coming through McDoanld county.

“A typical Saturday, we could have 13 to 18-hundred people go down the river,” Big Elk owner Pat Tinsley said. He worries that number would drop if the prices go up for tourists.

“There’s many rivers around,” Tinsley said. “Illinois River, the Current River, Buffalo River. People just go to another river if we’re basically pricing ourselves out of the market.”

A bill authored by Representative Bill Lant looks to add a 5% surcharge to rent canoes, kayaks, or any other floatation device; as well as the nightly cost of renting a hotel, motel, or cabin. That’s on top of existing taxes and fees.

“This is what we consider a necessary tax to keep it safe for everyone,” Lant said.

The funds would go towards a “County Emergency and Public Safety Services Surcharge Fund” to pay for emergency services including ambulance, police patrols, and jail maintenance.

The McDoanld County sheriff said in an email, additional deputies and jailers are needed during increased tourism. But added that the local Canoe Association helps pay deputies for patrolling the river, where the patrols are needed.

“The camp grounds have agreed to contribute to a fund,” Lant said. “But the fund is woefully short of matching the cost.”

“It is certainly at least well funded if not over-funded,” Tinsley said.

Tinsley believes if the extra money is needed, the county should be asking local voters and businesses whether they are willing to contribute rather than making customers pay.

“We’re trying to increase tourism to the county,” Tinsley said. “And everybody feels like this increased tax would detour that.”

HB 36 is currently in committee. If approved by the house and senate, it would still be subject to a public vote.