A 1 percent municipal tax will be added on all hotel and motel room bills per day in St. George starting Jan. 1.

The St. George City Council voted 3-2 to approve the tax Thursday, despite objections raised by members of the St. George Motel Association.Money generated from the room tax will be earmarked for construction of the proposed new Dixie Convention Center, land purchases for the center and additional activities related directly to tourism, according to Gary Esplin, St. George city manager.

A room tax was chosen to fund the proposed convention center because visitors are the ones who will benefit most, Mayor Dan McArthur said.

The first debt service payment - roughly $300,000 - for the property approved for purchase last week by the council is due July 1, but the city needs to start generating money now, Esplin said.

St. George has 2,800 hotel and motel rooms with an average occupancy rate of 50 percent.

"Unless we know we have the money for the debt service, then we better stop now," Councilwoman Cheer Owens said. "We've got expensive land we will have to get rid of."

St. George Motel Association members said they support the proposed convention center, but not the tax.

"We feel the money is available, it's a matter of what pocket it's in," said Paul Harker, motel association president. "We feel like there should be a broader tax base. Everyone will benefit, not just the motels."