Is city taking liberty with hotel tax?

Is the city of Bremerton attempting to loot the city’s hotel/motel tax for its own benefit?

The hotel/motel tax is a 4 percent tax added on to the final hotel bill for every hotel stay in Kitsap County (except for government folk, because they are limited by federal law for how much they can spend). The city usually allocates $180,000 of this money to local organizations that support tourism. But this year, the rules are changing. Perhaps because the city, too, has its hand out.

And it may be taking money away from other organizations that need the money more.

While the city collected about $250,000 in the tax in 2002, it is recommending that $230,000 be allocated this year to local organizations, which is upped from the usual $180,000. After the Admiral Theatre gets its set-in-stone $90,000, that leaves $140,000 for the other organizations to share, right?

No. The city is asking for $75,000. That leaves $65,000 for the other groups to share.

Is that fair? No.

Does it get worse? Yes.

The difference between last year’s allocations and this year’s recommended allocations, $50,000 will come out of the tax’s reserve fund. Yes, there is a reserve fund, but there won’t be any more if the city gets its way. Because, in addition to the $75,000 the city is requesting out of collected taxes, it is also asking for $150,000 from the reserve fund. The money would be used to pay for the conference center start-up cost in its first year.

Keep in mind, when other organizations have requested cash from the reserve fund, they’ve reportedly been told no, because the city apparently had “plans” for it. Now we know what those plans were.

Right now, there’s a little more than $200,000 in the reserve fund. A little quick math will tell you that if the city ups the allocation and gets its requested allotment from the reserve fund, that will leave very, very little.

And what if the committee denies the city’s request? Can’t the city council ask itself for the money? The committee, after all, can only make suggestions. It is ultimately up to the council to decide what will be.

Whether or not it was the intention for the organizations to become reliant on the funding from the hotel/motel tax, the fact of the matter is, they have. And for the city to take from that money is, at best, questionable.

Any way about it, the decision about the hotel/motel tax will be made at the regular city council meeting Wednesday, Oct. 8.

If you agree the hotel/motel tax shouldn’t be used as a cash cow for the conference center, pick up the phone and call your local council member.

They do, after all, represent you.

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