Craig City Council member Terry Carwile said he was “disappointed, to say the least” at how city voters weighed in on Referendum 2B, the 6.9-percent lodging tax proposal, during Tuesday’s general election.
Carwile said he was left wondering why voters had turned down a proposal that would have “benefited the community a great deal.”
For that reason, Carwile said he is considering revisiting the lodging tax issue, possibly lowering the tax percentage and putting it up for vote again in the city’s municipal election in April.
“I don’t see anything in the world wrong with putting it on the ballot again,” he said. “I don’t know if we would generate the level of help that we got from folks in terms of promoting the idea next time, though.”
But, the idea is premature, Carwile said. The council member said the council has other issues to address first, and he would need to “test the waters” to see if other council members share the same sentiment.
Carwile was unsure why the measure was voted down by 72 percent of Craig voters, he said.
“Given the resounding nature of the ‘no’ vote, I can’t really put my finger on one particular aspect, there,” he said. “Maybe people are adverse to the whole idea. We’ll have to see, but it may be worth a shot to put it on the ballot again in April.”
Carwile was also not convinced the percentage rate of the proposed levy had a great deal of influence on voters, he said.
“That was the interesting part of it,” he said. “There were some folks that were vocal about it, but the average man or woman on the street didn’t seem to be that connected to it.”
However, Carwile said the “back and forth” discussions between proponents of the measure and area lodging industry representatives about the tax percentage “distorted the discussion.”
“In real dollar terms, it is not that much,” he said. “And, the benefits to the community would have been great.”
If the city council gives the thumbs up to revisiting the issue, Carwile said lodging representatives would likely be included in the discussion of the rate percentage.
“I don’t think there is going to be any question there will be a need to communicate with other folks again,” he said.
Randy Looper, a Craig resident and co-owner of the Elk Run Inn who opposed the measure, said he would be on board for further discussions about lowering the tax rate and re-proposing the measure.
“As long as it isn’t over 4.9 (percent), I will support it, 100 percent,” he said.
Looper said he would like to see some sort of lodging tax in the city.
“My problem with the whole process … (was that) in the first meeting, they came up with the 6.9 percent from who, what, where or why, I don’t know because I wasn’t there,” he said. “After that, no one was willing to listen and change that point.”
Looper said he understands the tax would be beneficial to the lodging industry in the long run if the measure doesn’t put them out of business in the short term.
“I think there is a point at which people say, ‘No more,’” he said. “I think if you get, not the lodging tax … but the total tax over 12 percent, it is going to be people saying no.”
Looper said if the lodging tax would have passed in the general election at 6.9 percent, his hotel could have lost business and not seen the benefits for at least three years.
“That is a long time to try to figure out how to survive,” he said.
Council member Ray Beck said he would support revisiting the tax percentage because he still believes in “the concept of it” and the tax’s potential benefits to the area.
Beck thinks lowering the percentage would help the measure’s chances of passing in the April election, if approved by city council.
“We’re not shooting for the moon here,” he said. “We are taking baby steps, but at the same time we are allowing this to be under the city … (where we would) have a lot more flexibility.”