City allocates lodging tax dollars, business leaders say the decision was overdue

The city of Port Orchard has, since March, had a $30,040 surplus in its lodging tax fund, which is set aside for projects to encourage local tourism.

Seven local business leaders on Tuesday urged the city council to commit to spending it — which it did.

For the business leaders, the decision was overdue.

“In reality, this council has spent literally hours upon hours discussing this issue, and, in the meantime, this money is just being held and isn’t actually generating any tourism whatsoever,” said Kathy Michael, who runs the Cedar Cove Inn on Seattle Avenue, with her husband Gil Michael.

It’s bad stewardship of the public’s money, she said.

“It’s a little bit like putting a five-dollar bill under a rock and thinking that, when you lift it, it’s going to be a $10,” she said.

Spending the money should, presumably, bring more customers and dollars to the city.

But keeping it in an account doesn’t help, she said.

After listening to Michael and six other business owners expressing similar concerns, the council voted to spend the money following recommendations from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

The expenditures included:

• $2,000 to the Port Orchard Bay Street Association for walking maps;

• $2,000 to the Cedar Cove Association for a Debbie Macomber Movie Premier and Wrap-Up Party promotion;

• $9,750 to the Festival of Chimes and Lights committee;

• $2,500 to the Economic Development and Tourism Committee for a brochure advertising the city;

• $5,000 to the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau for promotion and advertising;

• $3,000 to the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce for promotion through television and periodicals;

• $2,500 to the Sidney Museum of Arts Association for historical/state signage; and,

• $3,290 was left in reserve for special funding requests

Councilmen Jerry Childs and Jim Colebank voted against the lodging tax advisory committee's recommendations.

“I have no problem with these groups getting the money,” said Childs, “but the procedures and the way we’ve done this is pitiful.”

The council spent a lot of time discussing whether or not it could spend the money on projects currently funded through the city’s general account, but didn’t vet the organizations that applied for it.

“We’ve never even looked at them,” said Childs. “We haven’t even talked about them.”

But for the residents at the meeting, no decision was a bad decision.

“This is the high season,” said Coreen Haydock, executive director at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. “We can all put it to good use.”



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