Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 18, 2017

Motel tax, not a property tax

By David Hotle | Jun 27, 2017

 

Washington Chamber of Commerce director Michelle Redlinger said that the tax is only levied on people who rent a motel room, and is not a property tax.

 

During discussions about the hotel/motel tax referendum coming up Aug. 1, Washington Chamber of Commerce director Michelle Redlinger is sure to point out that the tax is only levied on people who rent a motel room, and is not a property tax.

As of Monday, absentee ballots are available in the Washington County Auditor’s office to vote on the special issue. If approved, the measure will levy a 7 percent tax on the renting of rooms in any hotel, motel, inn or lodging. Redlinger said the tax revenues would be used to help promote Washington and draw tourism. She said the purpose is to bring people to the community.

“Washington is one of the few communities left that doesn’t have a hotel/motel tax,” Redlinger said. “It has been a goal for the City of Washington and for the Chamber to try to increase the awareness of how it would benefit the community and to see if the community would support it.”

She said the Chamber had considered holding the vote last year, but when the city was named as an overnight stop for RAGBRAI, the issue got moved to this year.

Redlinger said she has heard many times from people who are visiting Washington for the first time that they did not know what Washington had to offer. She said revenues from a hotel/motel tax are state-mandated to be used to promote the area. The funding can be used for tourism, community improvement and promotion of Washington. She believes the city could receive about $30,000 to $40,000 per year from the tax.

A fund administrating committee made up of people from the city, from the Chamber’s tourism committee and from community members would decide how to spend the funds. She said there has been no discussion yet about what projects would be done.

“The money won’t go tremendously far, but it will help,” Redlinger said. “It is more money than we had before.”

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.

Absentee voting may be done in person at the Washington County Auditor’s office at the courthouse in Washington, with the deadline being 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1. Auditor’s Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 21, and Friday, July 28. Alternatively, a ballot can be mailed to a voter if they fill out and submit a request form. The ballot request form may be obtained from the Washington County Auditor’s office or the following websites: co.washington.ia.us or sos.iowa.gov. If requesting a ballot by mail, the signed request may be delivered or mailed to the Washington County Auditor, Box 889, Washington, IA 52353, and must be received in the Auditor’s office no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, July 28. Anyone having questions should contact the Washington County Auditor’s office 319-653-7717.

“I think the initial word ‘tax’ is scary and when you hear it your initial thought is to be against it,” Redlinger said. “I think, educating the community, the tax will not be imposed on any resident here in Washington. It is only for someone who rents a motel room and stays there overnight. The tax is not based on income or real estate.”

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