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Lodging Tax Advisory Committee to revisit recommendations

As a result of state Legislative changes made in the 2013 session, all lodging tax applications must include estimates of how funding the activity will result in increases to people staying overnight, traveling 50 miles or more, or coming from another state or country.

To ensure this data is collected, the city is now required to have applicants provide additional information in the lodging tax application.

That was a major topic of discussion during the Oct. 15 city council work-study session.

City Attorney Greg Jacoby noted one of the amendments added to the statute this year changes the role of the council concerning the recommendations it received from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

“The council’s role is to approve or reject the recommendations,” Jacoby said.

He told the council they no longer have the authority to accept the recommendations and move the numbers around.

“You no longer have that flexibility,” Jacoby said.

He said the council can approve or reject the recommendation by LTAC as a whole or individually.

“If you reject it, the money is not disbursed and stays in the Lodging Tax Fund until a new application is run through the process, Jacoby said. “That doesn’t have to happen just once a year.”

He told the council they could decide another time during the year to solicit applications, but it has to go through the same committee and council approval process.

Jacoby said the council would perhaps have “one run” for the council to express their thoughts on the recommendations — if they differ from LTAC.

Under the revised RCW, it states lodging tax revenue may be used — directly by any municipality or indirectly through a convention and visitors bureau or destination marketing organization for:

• Tourism marketing.

• Marketing and operations of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists.

• Supporting the operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by a municipality or a public facilities district.

• Supporting the operation of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by nonprofit organizations.

Councilman John Clauson said he hasn’t studied the applications enough to make any decision, but was concerned why no money was being given to Visit Kitsap.

“For me, it’s a showstopper,” Clauson said. “What is the appropriate amount, I don’t know? They do as good as a job — or if not better — than some of the other activities that are being funded.”

Councilman Rob Putaansuu said the city could use money from the general fund to allocate to Visit Kitsap.

Councilman Jerry Childs said he felt Visit Kitsap should allocated about $12,000 in order to be a qualifying partner with the rest of the county.

“In this case, this year with this low amount, we should take the reserve and put them into play and help fund Visit Kitsap,” Childs said.

Jacoby said the council could ask LTAC to reconsider money allocated to the activities or group, or the council could ask for a specific proposal.

“Unless you direct the city treasurer or acknowledge that more than $64,000 is going to available, the only way LTAC can give Visit Kitsap $12,000 is by taking it from other people,” Jacoby said. “You have to address that as well.”

Councilman Fred Chang, who chairs LTAC, recommended that the council not act on the proposed recommendation and that LTAC meet again.

“There has been a lot of noise about Visit Kitsap,” said Chang, concerning an email he received. “There has been a lot of talk about how to accommodate Port Orchard and Visit Kitsap.”

Chang said one major concern was it had to be this “all or nothing.”

“Last year, we gave them (Visit Kitsap) 50 percent and cut us off halfway through the year,” Chang said. “The committee didn’t like that because they wanted more input to say and pick the six most important months for us.”

Chang said it sounds like the Visit Kitsap wants to accommodate Port Orchard, and that LTAC members would like to address how to give money to Visit Kitsap.

He said LTAC originally allocated $3,000 to Visit Kitsap, but they didn’t think it would go very far — maybe three months.

He said LTAC felt like the $12,000 requested by Visit Kitsap was a “retainer fee.”

Chang said if the council wants LTAC to reconsider more funding, it would.

“It’s really important that we are on that (Visit Kitsap) website not just three or six months of the year, but year-round,” Putaansuu said.

Clauson said looking at it from some of the different festivals and activities versus Visit Kitsap, all the others are “incidental or extra things.”

“It’s different to take an organization that survives mostly on hotel-motel tax and tell them we only want to fund you three months out of the year,” Clauson said. “What are they supposed to do the other nine months?”

He said Visit Kitsap’s role is to bring people to Kitsap County.

“It our local jurisdictions, whether it be the Chamber, Port Orchard Bay Street Associate or whoever, we need to get those people to come to Port Orchard,” Clauson said.

“It’s not one against the other. They need to work hand-in-hand with each other.”

Clauson said he favors Visit Kitsap being funded $12,000, even at the expense of the $3,000 for police overtime and the $3,800 for Chimes and Lights.

“Those are things that are better justified coming out of the general fund as opposed to taking general fund money to fill in the gaps,” explained Clauson.

 

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