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City reorganizes Lodging Tax Advisory Committee

POULSBO — The city is preparing for a battle, one that it cannot avoid.

It’s time for the annual competition over the city’s lodging tax dollars.

To help make the process more transparent and fair this year, Mayor Becky Erickson has stepped down from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which is responsible for dispersing the funds.

“My goal, and I think the goal of the council, is to put people on this committee that are going to treat all applications in a fair way,” she said. “For what’s best for Poulsbo.”

The mayor has chaired the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee for three years. But this year, state laws changed a bit. Now the city has the ability to apply for those dollars, which it has embraced.

Erickson, however, felt uneasy applying for the money and then acting as a decision maker in the selection process.

“We put in grant applications for police overtime for our festivals, maintenance for our bathrooms, those kinds of things,” she said. “We did the grant applications like everybody else, and I felt uncomfortable being chair when that’s going on. It didn’t feel right.”

Instead, Councilman Gary Nystul was selected as an unbiased official to chair the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“You did a great job explaining this,” Nystul said to Erickson during Wednesday’s discussion on the topic. “But you did not mention that I asked for combat pay for doing this,” he joked.

The committee is required to include an elected official as chair, two representatives from local lodging establishments, and two representatives from organizations that can receive the money.

Merchants, lodging providers, the city and others are vying for a piece of tax-dollar pie. However, each year when organizations line up for a serving, some go away hungry.

The lodging tax has therefore become a contentious topic in the past; particularly when it comes to which organization will get to dip into the pool of highly-desired funds.

The money is sourced from taxes collected at local lodging establishments. The taxes are pooled and provided to the city each year. The city then turns around, forms a committee, and disperses the funds to organizations and efforts that increase tourism to the area — in other words, groups who can put heads in Poulsbo beds.

The city has the option to collect a portion of sales taxes from local hotels, however, it has chosen not to in the past. This allows the local lodging tax to be larger, and thus, swells the resulting pool of money.

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