Visitors staying overnight in the Moab area will pay more in taxes, starting next year.

The Grand County Council Tuesday evening voted 4-3 to approve an increase in what is called the “Transient Room Tax” rate. Starting Jan. 1, it will go up from 3 percent to 4.25 percent, the state-allowed maximum.

That means a tourist staying overnight in a hotel, motel or campground that costs $100 a night will pay an additional $1.25 a night, not including other taxes and fees.

Grand County will join 15 of Utah’s 29 counties already charging the maximum rate.

“It’s my belief that even at 4.25 percent, the property owners of Grand County are still subsidizing services for tourists,” said council member Chris Baird, who proposed the rate increase. “I certainly empathize with business owners who are the collection point. Unfortunately, that’s just the name of the game.”

The Transient Room Tax rate increase should generate an additional $728,000 a year, Baird estimates.

The state mandates how counties can spend revenue from the Transient Room Tax. Basically, it must be used to promote tourism or mitigate the impacts of tourism.

Services used largely by tourists could be paid for with the additional Transient Room Tax dollars, freeing up general fund money for other county services and needs.

Those include upgrading the county’s IT system, making improvements to the jail and the courthouse, increasing salaries and reclassifying some county employees’ positions,  addressing drainage issues and replacing some roads department equipment.

Council member Chris Conrad said he has always considered hotel taxes just part of the deal when he’s away from home.

“This isn’t going to stop travelers from traveling,” Conrad said. “In Grand County, we have the equivalent of the Olympics (in number of visitors) every year. There’s a tremendous amount of things happening in this county that have price tags. Someone’s got to pay it.”

Council Chairman Gene Ciarus voted against the rate increase.

“I’m not in favor of taxes,” he said. “I’m not sure one and a quarter is the way to go. I think there’s other ways to do it. Taxation on people is the very last thing anyone wants to do.”

If he was going to approve a tax, he said, he’d want the additional revenue put in a fund, not dispersed as needed to various departments.