Port may consider transient room tax

January 18, 2013 10:18 pm

The Port of Brookings Harbor is researching  the possibility of adding a transient occupancy tax to the May ballot after Commissioner Jim Relaford mentioned the idea to his fellow commissioners during Tuesday night’s meeting. 

“It’s just a thought,” Relaford said during the meeting. “It could generate revenue for the port. Right now, we don’t get much revenue from tourists.

The transient occupancy tax would be charged to customers of hotels or RV parks  located within the port district, which stretches from the Oregon border north to the Pistol River.

It’s unclear if the port’s tax would impact the city of Brookings, which already has its own transient occupancy tax.

“The city’s been doing it, and has had it for some time,” Relaford said in an interview. “It certainly is a tax that wouldn’t hurt us. Basically it’s for transients who stay in hotel rooms, motel rooms and RV parks. They come down and use the services of the port without having to pay for it. This is one way we can fund the port so (tourists) have a place to come.”

Commissioners Roy Davis, Sue Gold, Ted Freeman and Mike Manning were all in favor of the idea. Port Director Ted Fitzgerald was as well. 

“Well I think that the transient room tax has been pretty specifically designed by the legislature (to) go toward tourism, so if the port was to go in that direction I would want to definitely focus at least the vast majority of the money if not all of it on promotions,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that it could benefit the port and the community. More so the community than the port. I think the port would just be the best entity to direct those promotional dollars. ... I think it would pay off in big dividends.”

Relaford is not sure how much revenue the tax could generate yet, but said some of the tax money would go toward tourism marketing; it can’t all be put into the general fund.

“As you get more tourists, you get more tax that allows you to market more,” he said. “It’s almost a self-supporting situation.”

Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman said the transient room tax has been very important for the city. 

“For us it is very important,” Milliman said. “We use 75 percent of the proceeds of the tax for general city operations, and we use 25 percent of it for tourism promotion. We receive about $138,000 a year from the transient occupancy tax.”

Milliman added the city mainly uses the revenue on police services and park maintenance. 

“I’m not sure how the port district tax would affect the city at this point,” he said. “I heard that they are considering that, and I’m researching the matter now.”

He said the city is researching the matter because the city is within the port district. Milliman is not sure if the tax would apply to businesses within city limits.

“There needs to be some review as to how that would work,” he said. “What we would need to avoid is having lodging facilities in Brookings paying a transient tax to the city and another transient tax to the port district. We need to see how to deal with that.”