City of Oak Harbor extends 2 percent funding contracts

Events funded by Oak Harbor’s lodging tax that may have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic are receiving an extension on their contracts from the lodging tax grants.

The lodging tax, also known as “2 percent funds,” helps promote city tourism and helps to fund events such as the Whidbey Island Marathon and the Oak Harbor Music Festival.

The grants can also be used to support tourism related facilities and marketing.

“Essentially the goal is to spend the funds on things to increase heads and beds for tourism-related income for the city,” Finance Director Patricia Soule said in an email.

With many events cancelled or delayed this year because of the COVID-19 health crisis, the city council voted unanimously last week to give organizations the option to amend their contracts. If the grantees are unable to hold their events this year, they can extend their contracts to Dec. 31, 2021.

“If they are able to spend their grant funds, they can choose not to amend it,” Soule said.

According to Soule, the LTAC grants eligible for the extension total $165,000.

The city of Oak Harbor was among the grant recipients. The city received $12,000 for the Whidbey Island Marathon and $15,000 for park event tables.

The marathon, which was scheduled for April 19, was moved to Sept. 13. Participants also have the option of “running” virtually.

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce received $51,000 for its Marketing 365 program, $6,150 for a major event shuttle service and $13,700 for the Boom Over the Bay, July 4, fireworks.

A total of $42,000 was set aside for the Oak Harbor Music Festival, currently scheduled for Sept. 4-6.

The Oak Harbor Library is eligible to extend its $1,650 grant for the comic convention, WhideyCon, which was cancelled in April.

The Island County Master Gardener Foundation is eligible to extend its $4,500 grant for the Whidbey Gardening Workshop which was cancelled in March.

The Craig Mckenzie Team Foundation has a $10,000 grant for the Hydros for Heroes boat race, currently scheduled for Sept. 12-13.

The island’s biggest barbecue, the Oak Harbor Pig Fest, was cancelled. It has $9,000 set aside in LTAC grant money.

“If they are able to do one next year they have the money already sitting there at the beginning of the year to utilize,” Soule said during last week’s teleconferenced city meeting.

Soule said there is uncertainty in how much revenue the lodging tax will accrue this year because of the reduced tourism.

According to the Island County Recovery Task Force, compared to last year there was a 70 percent drop in tourism.

According to last month’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee meeting minutes, Candlewood Suites lost 45 percent of their revenue in March.

Soule said the impact of the business closures had on the March lodging tax revenues should be seen by the end of this month.