The Craig City Council gave the go-ahead Tuesday to ask voters if they would be in favor of implementing a 6.9 percent lodging tax in the city limits.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the council approved, 6-1, on second reading, ordinance No. 1006, which will manage the tax if approved, and a ballot question concerning the tax to be placed before city voters in November’s general election.
A committee of residents developed the ordinance and ballot question over the last several months.
The committee is proposing the tax be collected in the city, and be divided into four categories related to the improvement of tourism in the area. The committee is also proposing two entities manage the lodging tax money.
The measure was introduced to the city council at its July 13 meeting, but was meet with opposition from several members of the lodging industry who signed a petition opposing the rate of the proposed tax.
The petition, which was signed by 15 area hotel representatives, stated the group would support the lodging tax up to 4.9 percent.
During the city council’s July 27 meeting, council member Ray Beck voted against the measure on first reading and said he would support a 5.9 percent lodging tax.
At the city council meeting Tuesday, Beck stood his ground, voting against the measure again.
“I felt that this was a fair and workable compromise considering the 4.9 (percent) versus the 6.9 (percent), and I thought 5.9 (percent) was right in the middle of the pack,” he said.
Lodging tax committee chairman Dave DeRose said he agreed with the idea of lowering the proposed tax to 5.9 percent to favor voters.
“It is more important that we pass this tax, than it is the amount of the tax,” he said. “I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that it will be much easier for campaigning to pass a 5.9 (percent tax) than a 6.9 (percent tax). It is a good political compromise.”
Council member Joe Herod said he favored a 6.9 percent tax, considering it is the percentage the committee reached.
“We gave these guys direction and a chance to come back with something, and this is what they came back with,” he said. “I honestly feel as a council we should be agreeable with what this committee has worked so hard on and allow it to be taken to the voters at 6.9 (percent).”
Council member Byron Willems agreed with Herod, adding the measure would “pass or fail on its own merits.”
“Whether it is at 4.9, 5.9 or 6.9 (percent) it is going to pass or not,” he said. “I don’t think a percentage is going to make that much difference.”
Council member Gene Bilodeau said he was “very surprised” there weren’t more “lodging folks” attending the meeting.
“They’re the ones who are outspoken about how ridiculous 6.9 (percent) was, and there is just a small group of them here today,” he said.
Bilodeau said he thought much of the lodging industry wouldn’t support the tax at either percentage.
“I kind of have chucked that out the door that we are probably not going to have their support with this, so I guess we just move forward without them,” he said.
Randy Looper, co-owner of the Elk Run Inn, said a 5.9 percent lodging tax “doesn’t do anything” as far as reaching a compromise.
“If you are looking at 5.9 (percent) versus 6.9 (percent), I would go with 6.9 (percent) because if you pass it great, but I am going to fight it and I am going to get people to fight it … either way,” he said.
After the meeting, the council discussed the possibility of creating a new committee to promote the tax and educate the community about it.
“The bottom line is that we go forward as a community or we stagnate as a community and that is to me what this is about,” DeRose said after the meeting. “It has nothing to do with the tax rate or where the money goes. It is about moving forward.”