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Commissioners revise lodging tax to promote tourism
By RACHEL BRANT
SILVERDALE — If you fund it, they will come.
That’s the philosophy behind a Kitsap County commissioners’ policy revision made at an Oct. 13 meeting.
Drawing tourists to Kitsap County requires money, and the decision will bring in the necessary funds to draw in the crowds.
The board of commissioners revised the county lodging tax policy to change the way organizations receive funding for tourism-related activities and promotion.
“We revised our policy,” Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said. “We revised our policy in a couple of ways.”
The lodging tax, which is added to per room per night rates of all hotels and motels is 4 percent in the county and money accrued from this percentage is pooled together and put toward driving tourism in the county. The lodging tax brings in about $200,000 a year, according to Brown.
Under the old county lodging tax policy, certain organizations received a designated amount of money each year.
“In the past, we had earmarked a certain amount of money to the (Bremerton) Admiral Theatre and the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau,” Brown said.
The newly revised lodging tax policy states that 75 percent of lodging tax funds will go to organizations that promote tourism within Kitsap County and 25 percent will go to organizations that attract arts to the county. Money is no longer earmarked for certain organizations.
“Frankly, it really allows different organizations to compete for resources,” Brown said.
He said this will particularly help organizations in unincorporated areas, such as the Silverdale and Kingston chambers of commerce, compete for lodging tax dollars.
“This will allow the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce to compete for resources, whereas in the past, there were limited resources available,” Brown said.
Each city has its own lodging tax dollars based on the facilities in that particular city. The four city municipalities are Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island. Seven people serve on the county Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, including one county commissioner, three members of organizations that receive funding and three members of organizations that contribute to the lodging tax fund. Each municipality determines how much money goes to which organizations.
In years past, the Bremerton Admiral Theatre received $130,000 in lodging tax funding — $90,000 from the city of Bremerton and $40,000 from the county Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor & Convention Bureau received more than $182,000 and Port Orchard’s Fathoms O’Fun $11,000.
Brown said “the bulk” of lodging tax dollars are collected in Silverdale, at establishments like the Silverdale Beach Hotel.
The revised county lodging tax policy could help fund a performing arts venue in Silverdale in the future, as part of the Silverdale Community Center project, Brown explained.
“This money now could be used to promote that facility,” he said.
Brown said driving tourists to Kitsap County is important because some people vacation here and later decide to permanently move to the area.
“Next to our military bases and expanding health care in the county, tourism is a significant driver,” he said. “We always want to be competitive and bring more folks to the community. That’s something that helps our entire community.”