The Chamber of Commerce's proposed amendment to the transient room tax has stumbled and nearly hit the ground. It's a shame - in a way. The tax itself is a great way to raise money for the community without burdening the locals as it is largely the people passing through town who are paying the tax. However, the way this tax amendment proposal has been handled is discouraging and it is just as well that it is flat on its face for the time being.
In a nutshell, the amendment would raise the tax from a flat $2 a night to 8 percent. Initially it was also going to exempt people staying in a hotel for 30 days or more from the tax. That may change to 15 days at the request of hotel owners. All of this is kosher. But the Chamber has not done enough to promote or explain this tax amendment, so naturally people are complaining. And where it really starts to go pear shaped is the how and where the money is to be spent.
Several meetings have been held to discuss the tax, with the percentages and figures merely mentioned. The general public and hotel owners have not really received an accurate accounting of the projected numbers. During the meetings the Chamber has explained in a general manner that after administrative costs (which have no number attached to it), after the state gets their 1 percent and after the hotel/motel owners keep 5 percent - although that may climb to 7 percent to offset credit card charges - the Chamber and Transient Tax Room Committee will split the revenue 75 percent and 25 percent respectively. The community apparently will be eligible for 25 percent of that 75 percent in the form of grants for projects, events and the like. The Chamber would use their share of the pie to market and promote Grant County. They are projecting to raise double the amount they are now with the increase, which would amount to $55,000 to $60,000 (although Crook County has proposed an 8.5 percent transient tax and has projected only $17,000 in added revenue).
This plan, albeit a rough sketch, seems to be in general straight forward business and in most places would pretty much benefit all parties involved. But thanks to a lack of information and no marketing the proposed room tax amendment has stalled.
Last Wednesday the agency in charge of marketing Grant County pitched the Chamber on their upcoming plan for attracting people to the area. For $1,000 a month, there was little substance or flare in the marketing strategy put forth.
The agency is already on retainer through the end of the fiscal year, or June. Instead of spending money on poorly executed and ineffectual marketing, why not have the marketing agency focus on promoting the amendment? This would up the odds on it being on the ballot in November and moreover that there is informed public support behind it.
The transient room tax is already in place. Increasing it is a solid idea as a way to aid the local economy. Although Grant County cannot rely on tourism for its economy, tourist dollars do help somewhat. But for the amendment to pass, the Chamber must reach out to the community to promote this transient tax amendment and ensure the public the extra money is going to be spent wisely, efficiently and effectively. Luckily they have time before the November election. It would be an easy sell if they got their ducks in a row, put the cards on the table and explained the rules.