City leaders aren’t responding well to changes made by the state Legislature the way lodging taxes will be distributed in the future.
And it’s likely Valleyfest will suffer for those changes, as well.
At last week’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, the news was laid out by city legal staff that changes to the state law now take the final approval of how much money goes to which organizations. Instead, the Lodging Tax Advisory Board – appointed by the council – will have the authority. However, the council will still have the ability to approve or reject the board’s choices.
Lodging taxes are collected by overnight stays in are hotels and motels and then distributed to groups that promote tourism – or draw tourists – to Spokane Valley. In recent years, there have been times when Valleyfest, the late-summer community festival at Mirabeau Point, has been in danger of not receiving funds due to controversy whether or not it actually “puts heads in beds.” The majority of the committee has not been in favor of funding Valleyfest for the past two years; however, the council voted in favor of some money being directed toward the event.
Under the new rules, that will no longer be possible.
“I think it’s handcuffed us more than it’s helped us,” said Council Member Rod Higgins.
Also, organizations applying for funds need to demonstrate on paper the number of people who stayed in a hotel, who traveled more than 50 miles and who traveled from out of state. That could prove difficult for Valleyfest, whose visitors come and go as they please throughout the weekend.
Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney, called the change in the advisory’s committee’s role “significant.”
“It clearly changes the way we do business,” Mayor Tom Towey said. “We can argue all day whether it’s good or bad.”
Council Member Arne Woodard said it was a major miscalculation of the state Legislature to take the decision-making out of the hands of an elected body.
“I think they missed miserably with this bill,” Woodard said.
Council Member Chuck Hafner agreed with the mayor that there isn’t much that can be done.
“Whether we like it or not, we have to live with it,” he said.