Port Townsend lodging tax funds allocated; lack of application process questioned

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved $557,338 in lodging tax funding for this year, nearly 60 percent of which will go toward city efforts.

City Manager David Timmons said during the council’s meeting last Tuesday that last year had been the most lucrative year he has seen for the lodging tax.

He said the tax brought in $508,000 for this year. Lodging taxes fund tourism campaigns and infrastructure that supports tourism, he said.

City Councilman Bob Gray questioned the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee’s process for selecting candidates for funding during the council meeting last Tuesday.

“For organizations that would like to apply for funds here, there doesn’t seem to be a process,” he said.

Timmons said the city no longer has an application process for lodging tax funding because of an effort to simplify reporting.

“Aren’t you excluding other organizations?” Gray asked.

Timmons replied “that’s the policy.”

Gray, who said he would support the lodging tax recommendations this year, said he’d like to see the committee address the application process next year.

Gray, who is on the Jefferson County Fair Board, said the fairgrounds’ restrooms and campgrounds are in dire need of repair, but that there is no way to apply for Port Townsend lodging tax dollars.

“It seems there should be a way for organizations to apply, or to at least get into the game in some manner,” he said.

Of the funding recommended by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, $326,338 support the city’s general marketing and promotional transitional services, general fund administrative services, lodging and arts studies, facilities rentals and debt service for the Water Street Enhancement Project.

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce will receive $176,000 for visitor center operations, Port Townsend Main Street Program will receive $20,000 for its winter marketing campaign, Fort Worden with receive $25,000 for tourism infrastructure and the Northwest Maritime Center will receive $10,000 for facilities rental.

Timmons said the city is preparing to migrate its tourism and marketing to the visitor center and that this year is a transitional period.

He said now is a good time to make the transition because the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new executive director.

The funding provided will leave $151,577 in reserves.

Gray questioned why the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommends leaving that much money left over when there are other things that could be funded.

Timmons said “reserves are building because we can’t spend it fast enough.”

Timmons said the money is earmarked for tourism and marketing.

He said with marketing there is “only so much you can spend,” and it’s hard to determine how effective that spending is.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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