Nov. 18 was a bellwether day for Newport — but not in a good way. A neighbor and I appealed the city’s computation of back transient room taxes, interest and penalties regarding Rogue Brewery’s non-filing for its three vacation rentals on the Bayfront, in operation since 2007. Rogue apologized, stating they were not aware Newport required transient room taxes, and would allow the city to compute what they owed.
City staff chose to use the code for deficiency (limited to the three prior years) instead of city code for failure to file (delinquency, all years are open). The city's computation was just under $25,000. But using a conservative computation, I estimated an additional $88,000 was owed. Instead of investigating the erroneous code, the city sent Rogue a letter on Oct. 9, invoicing for taxes, interest and penalties for just three of the 12 years of back taxes owed.
Our appeal was included on the Nov. 18 city council agenda, but before our concerns could be addressed, the city's attorney advised that we first had to establish our “standing” — our right to appeal. One city councilor made an argument based on a court decision to allow us to proceed with the merits of the case. Unfortunately, one needs more than just one savvy city councilor. We were denied standing because the determination letter itself did us no “pecuniary” harm, so our appeal was dismissed without being heard.
Newport’s 2019/2020 budget started out with a deficit of about $800,000. Programs and projects were cut during the budget process. Although an additional $88,000 would benefit only a few projects, taking the time to evaluate the city's computation of the Rogue determination would have benefited the city and her residents financially. The city set a dangerous precedent on Monday night.