The Galesburg Promise was created to help the city's students afford college, but the program itself is in need of a cash infusion. So the city is considering a nearly 2% hike in the hotel-motel tax.
The increase is expected to generate an additional $124,000 per year. The hotel-motel tax already provides around $135,000 for the program and is the only source of funding for it.
70 students are currently in the program and Mayor John Pritchard said more money is needed to keep it running.
“The first year of the program, you only got the entering class. Second year, of course, now you’ve got two sets of classes in there. So from looking at that and looking at the first semester this fall, it appears we’re going to need about $250,000 a year to sustain it,” Pritchard said.
The Galesburg Promise is for students who graduate from Galesburg High School and plan to attend Carl Sandburg College. It offers to pick up the cost of tuition after state and federal financial aid options have been exhausted.
Depending on how long a student has been in the Galesburg School District, the support can range between half the cost of tuition and all of it. Students must enroll at Sandburg for a course that leads to a certificate or a degree and have at least 9 credit hours for the semester.
Ryan Cochran, President of the Galesburg Lodging and Restaurant Association, told aldermen he is concerned the proposed tax increase might dissuade visitors from spending a night in town.
“For the people that come and visit our community, and spend money in our community, we want to invest in our community, and we want them to create jobs in our community. Sometimes the first stop for those people that are looking to create jobs are the hotels,” Cochran said.
But Sandburg President Lori Sundburg argued the increase would not add much to the cost of a night in a hotel room. Sundburg shared with aldermen the current room rates of hotels in the city and how much the 1.8% increase would add on to the cost. She said the highest increase is just $2.11 per night at the Holiday Inn and Suites, where a night’s stay costs $117.
“The amount that we’re speaking about is a very small amount,” Sundberg said. “It’s not that I want to diminish the argument that the hotel people have made, because it is significant. The actual dollar amount, based on our rates is so low, that it’s almost nominal.”
Aldermen held first reading of the proposal Monday night. They could take a final vote on it as early as their November 21 meeting.