from Stan Matthews
County Website and Communications Manager
At its regular August 7th Meeting, the San Juan County Council will take up two issues that affect how special taxes collected on lodging and camping facilities are used. Under the current County Code, a two percent lodging tax is earmarked for the promotion and marketing of tourism countywide and an additional two percent tax is earmarked for a “Facilities” account which was established to “acquire and operate tourism-related facilities.”
When established, both funds were targeted at increasing tourism in the shoulder seasons adjacent to the crowded summer season. Changes in state law and in the economy have prompted the County’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) to recommend that the Council expand the allowable uses of the two funds and the target seasons.
Committee members concluded that changing travel patterns and the availability of lodging in the County now justifies a change from a focus on promotion and special events in the shoulder season to include “tourism year round.”
The second recommended change seeks to codify a practice the LTAC and Council began in 2008, expanding the use of Lodging Tax Facilities funds to allow non-profit organizations that are not associated with the county government (such as museums and arts centers) to receive grants to fund special events and to help finance the improvement and operation of tourist-related facilities. An 2007 amendment to state law permits those uses, but County Code was not updated to reflect that change.
The Council is scheduled to take public comment and discuss of the “shoulder season” versus “tourism year round” goal at 1:30 p.m., during its review of the 2013 request for proposal for a tourism promotion organization. At 2 p.m. it will begin a “second touch” discussion the code change, which would primarily affect the use of Lodging Tax Facilities grants. Initial discussions suggested that the code change should simply reference state law, allowing it to automatically revert to the more restrictive rules should the 2007 Amendment be allowed to sunset.