Proposed lodging tax now set at 6.9 percent
April 23, 2010
Craig's lodging tax ballot question is taking form.
A newly formed volunteer lodging tax committee met Wednesday to begin settling details surrounding council member Terry Carwile's idea to implement a lodging tax within city limits.
The committee unanimously decided to set the proposed tax at 6.9 percent, which was amended from the 6 percent originally proposed.
Former Craig Mayor Dave DeRose was elected to serve as the committee's chairman.
Carwile presented the lodging tax idea at the March 23 Craig City Council meeting.
An April 7 community workshop fostered positive feedback about the issue and the city council voted, 7-0, on April 13 to form a committee tasked with drafting the potential November ballot question.
The city council must approve the ballot question before it goes on the November ballot.
Carwile said he wanted to implement the tax, collected from people staying in various forms of lodging in Craig, to help invest back in the community.
The idea is that the collected tax would fund marketing, promotions and area events to increase tourism, eventually boosting other forms of tax revenue for the city and improve the local economy, Carwile said.
Three primary topics discussed at Wednesday's committee meeting were the language of the ballot question, the percentage that should be proposed and the process of educating Craig voters about the tax.
The ballot question language was discussed at length to decide how best to present the question.
Christina Currie, Craig Cham-
ber of Commerce director, said the ballot language should be rigid enough to show voters the city has a plan for the tax money, yet flexible enough to change how the money is utilized if the needs of the city change in the future.
Frank Moe expressed concern that voters might like to see "more direction with what is going to happen."
"I'm wondering if the citizens and the tax payers are going to want to have an outline of how the money could be spent," he said.
Carwile said the ballot question should serve to identify how the funds will be used on a basic level, and then specific ordinance language should be drafted after the ballot question is approved.
"Another thing that will get us crossways with the voters is to have some ultra-detailed, convoluted, two-page ballot question that nobody can understand," he said.
Currie said it might help to have a balance of both — a simple ballot question and a draft ordinance.
"It would help to have some of the ordinance drafted ahead of time to help educate why this is important," Currie said. "There are people that still don't understand it's not a tax that we ourselves pay."
After the committee reached a general agreement that the ballot language should remain simple, members switched focus to implementing the education portion of the measure.
They discussed the possibility of forming another committee to handle advertising and promotion of the ballot measure but decided to table the discussion.
The committee also discussed how much, if any, of the revenue collected should go toward capitol projects such as a larger visitor center, a convention center or a recreation center.
DeRose said that no matter what parameters the ballot question contains, "as long as we continue to increase the funding and operation of tourism to create more tax base we have accomplished the goal."
The next committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 5 at Craig City Hall. The committee agreed to discuss ballot language pertaining to how the money will be allocated during that meeting.
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.