Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | May 22, 2018

Absentee voting begins on hotel tax

By David Hotle | Jul 13, 2017



The Washington County Auditor’s Office reports that as of Thursday morning, July 13, about 20 people had voted absentee on whether the City of Washington should enact a hotel-motel tax to help fund economic development of the city.

While the scheduled voting date for the referendum is Aug. 1 with the only polling place being at the courthouse, past reports are that up to 35 percent of voters vote absentee. People wishing to vote at the auditor’s office can go during regular office hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, and request a ballot at the front desk. The office will be open until 5 p.m. on the two Fridays leading up to the election.

“Hotel-motel taxes are something that many communities have that we don’t,” Main Street Washington director Sarah Grunewaldt said. “It is a valuable tool for those communities. As it is set up right now there is no direct benefit to Main Street, but we have the ability to apply for funding if we have a special project we want to work on. Any time that is an option, it is a great thing.”

If approved, the measure would levy a 7 percent tax on the renting of rooms in any motel, inn or lodging. Grunewaldt stressed the tax wouldn’t be a tax levied on property owners in Washington County, rather it would be collected from people who rent lodging in the city.

Revenues from the tax, which are projected to be about $30,000 to $40,000 annually, are state-mandated to be used to promote the area. A committee will be set up to determine how the money will be used. It can be used for tourism, community improvement or promotion.

The City of Washington had asked the Washington Chamber of Commerce to promote a referendum for a hotel-motel tax in 2016, but the vote was put off until this year due to the city hosting the RAGBRAI bicycle ride for an evening.

On Wednesday, members of the auditorium committee met in the chamber conference room to discuss coming events being held at the Washington Area Arts and Events Center. While the members are unsure at this point whether the tax would benefit promotion of events at the center, they believe the tax would benefit the area.

“It is going to be money that puts us on the map publicity-wise,” committee member Bob Youngquist said. “It is becoming more and more of a draw to come to Washington. It is getting to be quite an interesting place and there is a lot of great pride we have in ourselves because of everything we have going on. “

He said all the things being done locally would benefit the entire town.

“A hotel-motel tax can only benefit our community,” Grunewaldt said. “It is something that most people just expect to pay.”

The community has voted on whether to have a hotel/motel tax in the past and it has been voted down. The most recent time the issue was voted on was in 2009, and the result was 67 percent of the people who voted opposed the tax.


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