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Chamber, HDPA get a thumbs up for lodging tax spending

POULSBO — Downtown business owners got about half of the lodging tax grant money they’d asked for last week, but no one was complaining.

In fact, they were grateful.

In a 5-2 decision Nov. 19, the Poulsbo City Council voted to follow its lodging tax advisory committee’s recommendations for the chamber and Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association’s requests for lodging tax funds for 2004. That recommendation gives the chamber its full request of $20,000 and the HDPA $20,000 of its requested $40,000.

“I think they did the right thing and that downtown should be part of the lodging tax,” commented HDPA president John Kuntz on the vote. “It’s for promotional reasons and if it’s not for downtown, who is it for?”

The council originally heard recommendations for spending a total pot of more than $91,000 in lodging tax dollars at its Nov. 12 meeting. These funds are part of a tax on every hotel, motel and bed and breakfast stay within the city limits and are earmarked to be used for projects that promote tourism in Poulsbo. Council members agreed on the following recommendations Nov. 12:

•Marine Science Society of the Pacific Northwest — $6,800 for an ad campaign to attract more visitors

•Community Event Productions — $6,500 for 3rd of July signs, advertising and promotional materials

•Viking Fest Corporation — $5,920 for implementation of a marketing plan to invite guests and day visitors to Viking Fest

•Poulsbo Farmers Market — $4,000 for permanent signs and posters to advertise the market

•Poulsbo Historical Society — No funding for site development of property on Jensen Way to house an historical museum and to turn the site into a parking lot in the interim

•Viking Fest Corporation — No funding to send Miss Viking Fest and her court to regional parades and events

But council members came to loggerheads over both the chamber and HDPA requests. Community Services Committee members Dale Rudolph and Mike Regis had suggested giving the Chamber $10,000 and the HDPA $8,000 citing the desire to keep the lodging tax expenditures within the $40,000 revenues for 2003 and not dip into the $51,000 in reserves.

“What I want to make it clear is I’m not opposed to spending the money, that’s what it’s there for,” Rudolph commented last Wednesday. “I just think we need to have a reserve — some sort of contingency fund.”

Rudolph and Regis stood in the minority on Wednesday’s 5-2 vote. But HDPA and chamber members were on hand Nov. 19 to urge council to spend some of the reserves. Kuntz said that with recent traffic projects and the looming Olhava project that downtown businesses need support from the city to make a strong showing.

“The downtown needs promotional money,” Kuntz said. “We don’t have a big bank account like Wal-Mart does for our marketing.”

Kuntz said annually the HDPA spends about half of its total budget on marketing. This year, it’s marketing budget was $21,000 while in 2004, it will be about $16,000.

“This doubles our ability to market downtown,” he commented on the lodging tax award of $20,000.

HDPA and chamber members said they plan to use their hotel/motel tax funds in a cooperative marketing campaign with one another. Potential expenditures include brochures at various locations, radio advertising and print advertising.

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