Room tax could pay for Chamber staff

LINCOLN COUNTY –– The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners discussed Wednesday three proposals that would use transient room tax money to pay for three different projects, including a $90,000-a-year three-year-long staffing project for the Chambers of Commerce in Depoe Bay, Toledo and Waldport.

Currently, the chambers of commerce in three of Lincoln County’s smallest cities don't receive any transient room tax money, and getting the proposed $30,000 for each chamber every year would pay for staffing at each of the three chambers.

The transient room tax money currently available totals $269,143, according to County Counsel Wayne Belmont, in large part because transient room tax money has been increasing.

“We instituted a program of licensing VRDs [vacation rental dwellings], and we discovered there were a number of these particular entities that have come into the fold and are paying the taxes,” Belmont said during Wednesday’s board of commissioners meeting.

Four applicants, including the mayors of Waldport, Toledo and Depoe Bay, Oregon Coast Community College, Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County and Zilo International Group submitted proposals to the county to receive transient room tax money for those groups’ projects. The project proposed by Zilo International Group, which called for $100,000-$150,000 for tourism promotion and consulting services for Lincoln County, was effectively rejected by the county, leaving the other three projects in the running. All three of those projects would cost $228,042 in total.

“So you actually have sufficient funds on hand to fund all three of those projects if you want to do that,” Belmont said.

That also includes enough money to pay for the three-year chamber staffing pilot program. “There will be sufficient funds developed this year and next fiscal year to cover years two and three of that particular project if you want to go forward with it,” Belmont said during Wednesday’s meeting.

The money, Belmont said, is made available through a provision of the original transient room tax adoption in which the county delegated a certain amount of money to go towards economic development and tourism promotion.

The board of commissioners can now either delay making a decision about whether the chambers will get the transient room tax money or approve it and renew their approval this time next year. If the the commissioners vote to fund the chambers of commerce project now, they can revisit their decision later and vote each year as to whether or not to continue funding that project.

“I, myself, am not going to be here,” said Commissioner Terry Thompson, who is wrapping up his final term as a commissioner. “If I’m running a pilot project, I’d like to have the pilot project before I make a decision on a final project to extend it. It’ll be up to you guys.”

Doug Hunt, chair of the board of commissioners, thought the body should decide to fund all three chambers of commerce in full for the duration of the proposed projects instead of deciding each year to continue funding.

“I see the ability to fund all three projects as they’re presented, which would include a three-year pilot project,” Hunt said. “There would be additional money that would accumulate in the interim.”


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