Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Council Holds Off on Tourism Vote OK

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 7:40 PM

A controversial vote over the city's room tax rate WILL NOT be put to voters in May, the Bend City Council decided Wednesday night.

The council had been considering asking voters to decide whether the city's room taxes should be increased from 9 to 11 percent. Visitors pay an additional 1 percent state lodging tax on top of Bend's rate.

The increase in taxes would result in about $600,000 more annually for Visit Bend, a tourism marketing group that currently receives about $1 million in revenues from the city's transient room taxes. Over 10 years, the increase is expected to provide Visit Bend with an additional $7.7 million.

The increase would also bring in about $250,000 for the city, which would spend the money on police, fire and road needs.

The question of whether to increase the tax is a deeply political one.

There is a divide in the tourism community over how tourism marketing dollars are spent. Many hotel owners have also said a 2 percent increase will wipe out the meager profits they are making as they recover from the recent recession.

Many of these hotel owners, operators and business owners spoke to the council at the Wednesday meeting, some offering emotional testimony over how the TRT increase would affect their business.

Councilor Jodie Barram said it appeared to her that hotel owners were split evenly on the question, but that she wanted to talk more with hotel owners before making a decision to send the question to voters.

Other councilors agreed and created a committee to elicit that input. Barram, Scott Ramsay and Doug Knight were appointed to the committee.

The committee will make a recommendation later to the full council on how best to proceed. Councilor Mark Capell suggested that all options should be on the table, including assessing a higher tax only in the summer months.

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