Chamber makes lodging tax haul

The Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce scored big on the city’s 2 percent lodging tax hand-out this year, netting $65,000 during the city council meeting last Tuesday.

The only other group in the city that got any of the funding this year is the Lions Club, which will receive $8,000 for the annual auto show.

City Finance Director Doug Merriman, who also serves as the interim city supervisor, gave the lodging tax advisory committee’s recommendation to the council. The council unanimously agreed with the recommendations.

Oak Harbor has a total of 4 percent in lodging taxes. Half of the tax goes to fund events or organizations that support tourism in the city. Under law, the lodging tax advisory committee must be made up of equal number of representatives from local hotels or motels and members of organizations that promote tourism.

The other 2 percent will go toward an island-wide marketing campaign. Merriman said the city is holding that money until the group that will manage the campaign is up and running.

According to Merriman, each 2 percent fund currently contains about $180,000 and each fund accumulates $65,000 to $75,000 per year. He said the tourism fund has an extra $180,000 that has been earmarked for a capital project within the city some day.

The lodging tax advisory committee also received funding requests for a veterans memorial in Coupeville and for tourist maps for ferries by Town Graphics, but the group recommended against the applicants.

Since the tax needs to be spent within the city, funding the memorial in Coupeville was against the rules. Merriman also said the council funded Town Graphics last year with the caveat that it was to be the last year of funding.

Merriman says the city made a 10-year agreement with the Chamber of Commerce last year to fund the Chamber at $52,320 a year. Merriman says $7,000 is to pay for the building and the rest is for tourism-related activities.

In addition, the Chamber received $6,750 for the float program and $6,230 for its billboard program.

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