by Rob Taylor
The Transient Occupancy Tax or Measure 6-152 will be on the ballot for voters in Coos County, Oregon, on November 3, 2015.
Approval of this measure would create a 10% countywide lodging tax on consumers, including local residents who stay in a hotel, motel, campground, RV park, or vacation rental in Coos County. Cities that currently have a lodging tax will charge only the difference between the cities tax and the counties 10%, so if a city imposes a 7% tax it will only charge the consumer an additional 3% up to the total amount of 10%, which means the city and county taxes, would not be compounded.
Cities in Coos County with a room tax:
- Bandon 6%
- Coos Bay 7%
- North Bend 7%,
- Lakeside 7.5%
- Oregon 1% statewide room tax for the Oregon Tourism Commission
Officials speculate the combined TOT could possibly yield $3.8 million dollars annually. After the cities take their cut of 1.1 million that will leave 2.7 million for the county. State law requires that the county spend 70% of the money on promoting tourism, which means the overall budget sacrifices $1.9 million of the room tax on advertising and marketing outside the county. The county itself retains a measly 30% or $800,000 annually for the general fund—all of it discretionary.
There is no guarantee in the wording on the ballot that the money would go to public safety, and the commissioners could save much more money by eliminating the five Urban Renewal Agencies that are draining property taxes from county coffers.
Of course, that would reduce the tax burden on property owners.
The Board of Commissioners released a statement making the promise that, “The other 30% is unrestricted and would be used to fund public safety, including the Coos County jail, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Sheriff’s department.”
However, there are some things to consider before voting.
At a time when the county is expecting a 10% shortfall in the budget, the equivalent of $3.1 million, can Commissioners Cribbins and Sweet be trusted to direct the funds towards public safety and not one of their pet projects?
These same two commissioners are still trying to hire a County Administrator by changing the title of the job to Finance Director after the voters rejected spending the money to create that position.
In addition, the tax is unfair to the unincorporated parts of the county, because the cities retain their portion of the TOT leaving the rural areas the responsibility of having to pay a disproportionate part of the basic services provided for by this tax. There are more city dwellers incarcerated in the county jail than there are rural residents, so who is paying for whom in this deal.
The BOC plans to create a new tourism committee to oversee where the county will spend the 70% of the taxes that has to go to tourism. Some of the players on the committee will consist of the larger tourist industries and nonprofit groups, such as The Dunes, The Mill Casino, The Bandon Chamber of Commerce, The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, and the infamous, South Coast Development Council.
Most of the smaller businesses in the tourism industry will not receive the same representation on the committee as the bigger corporations, or special interest groups. The TOT will eventually become a slush fund subsidy for “big business”—all to the detriment of their smaller competitors.
One more thing to consider, when citizen activists asked the BOC to reaffirm the Second Amendment by enacting a preservation ordinance through a vote of the board, Cribbins and Sweet refused. Instead, they chose to turn their backs on the people.
Why should the citizens vote for a tax increase, and give the commissioners access to more money if they will not do the simple job of defending the rights of the individual?
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Rob Taylor is the founder of CoosCountyWatchdog.com, which is a virtual network of local activist.