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Oak Harbor’s tax grant program pays out

Oak Harbor’s Lodging Tax Grant Program is paying out to programs that support local businesses through tourism.

The city instituted the tax years ago, City Finance Director Doug Merriman said.

Although the official numbers are not in, the city “estimates close to $90,000 in revenue,” Merriman said of the Basic 2 percent Lodging Tax, which provides funds to the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Lodging Tax Grant program.

That figure is an increase over last year’s revenue, he said, following a four-year upward trend.

“Before then it was pretty flat,” he said.

Through a 10-year agreement with the chamber, $52,350 of the Basic Tax will go toward a tourism services agreement. The rest is slated for the grant program.

Council announced the grant awards of $15,000 to the Chamber of Commerce, $5,000 to North Whidbey Lions Club Car Show and $1,000 for the art commission’s annual Driftwood Day event.

Chamber Executive Director Jill Johnson said the chamber’s 2009 tourism program is already up an running. “With the full support of the city and the 2 percent committee, the chamber is well-positioned to market the community of Oak Harbor as an ideal family travel destination,” she said.

Johnson said the chamber is honored by the city’s decision to continue supporting its efforts to promote tourism.

“We view these grants as a significant indicator that our marketing programs are effective and on the right track,” she said.

An additional 2 percent Lodging Tax will be split equally between an island-wide marketing effort and the city’s Windjammer Park/Roger Brooks project list, Merriman said.

The island-wide agreement is a collaboration between island communities, including Langley, Freeland and Coupeville.

The blue informational signs around town, information kiosks and upgrades to Windjammer Park are the product of funding from the additional 2 percent tax.

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