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The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Council prepares for lodging tax distribution

11/23/2012

By MIKE HUFFMAN
Managing Editor

 

Although a decision won’t be made until at least Dec. 11, Spokane Valley City Council members are already attempting to figure out how to divvy up tax dollars generated by stays in area hotels and motels.

And, once again, organizers of the late-summer Valleyfest event are wondering if they will receive any of those funds.
While the council won’t meet again until Dec. 4, members spent some time at last week’s meeting discussing recommendations by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee on how to distribute money tax raised from hotel stays that must be spent to spur tourism.
Currently, the city has $380,500 to award in lodging tax money, with $30,000 already designated to go to CenterPlace and another $50,000 for tourism marketing.

The majority of the committee’s membership, however, say it believes those tax dollars are best used for organizations that have a proven track record of generating overnight visits.

“Valleyfest is seen as a community event for the city and should be funded through economic-development funds, not the lodging tax,” said Mark Calhoun, city finance director.

Valleyfest – which had received lodging tax funding from the council since 2004 – didn’t get any traction the first time around when 2012 funds were dispersed. The council, however, did choose to fund Valleyfest $30,000 in a second round of dispersals earlier this year. Organizers also received $19,000 in city economic-development funding.

Council Member Brenda Grassel, who chairs the committee, said she recommends giving Valleyfest $6,000, making it a total $25,000 contribution from the city.

“We want (these groups) to clearly specify what they going to use the money for,” she said.

Council Member Chuck Hafner said that many are often confused in thinking that Valleyfest is a city-sponsored event when it really isn’t.
“They have to raise money like everyone else,” he said.

Council Member Ben Wick said, in his mind, the city and Valleyfest are closely tied.

“It is a community event that I take ownership in,” he said. “It’s synonymous with our city. We should be a major sponsor.”

Meanwhile, five applicants are seeking appointments to fill vacancies on Spokane Valley's Lodging Tax Committee. Just two of the current committee members are seeking reappointment.
The five-member committee is made up of two representatives from organizations that qualify to receive funding from the lodging tax revenues, two representatives of businesses that collect the lodging tax and a member of the Spokane Valley City Council.
Applications were received from:

  • Keith W. Backsen, V.P/Director of Conventions Sales and Services with Visit Spokane;
  • Herman Meier, Member of the Board of Directors for the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum;
  • Claud R. "Rick" Wilhite, President of the Board of Directors for ValleyFest;
  • Lee Cameron (incumbent), owner of Mirabeau Park Hotel; and
  • Fiman (incumbent), General Manager of Quality Inn Valley Suites.

Committee members are responsible for reviewing applications and making recommendations for funding from the lodging tax.
Members of the committee are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council to serve one- or two-year terms.
Appointments to fill the openings are scheduled to be made during the Dec.11, council meeting at 6 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Avenue, Suite 101.

The Nov. 20 meeting was canceled this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Next Tuesday, Nov. 27, many council members will be attending a conference, so that meeting has been canceled, as well.


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