There was some grumbling, but Spokane Valley City Council members unanimously approved a list of committee-recommended lodging tax allotments Tuesday night.
The problem wasn’t necessarily with the organizations who will receive the funds – council members are generally happy with their work. Instead, several once again expressed their dissatisfaction with the process approved by the state Legislature two years ago.
“I think it’s a lousy system,” Mayor Dean Grafos said before casting his vote to OK the dispersal of $560,000 collected on a 2-percent tax on hotel stays in the city. “We have no control how we spend our citizens’ money. I’ll vote for this because we have no choice. But only because we have no choice.”
Each year, a council-appointed Lodging Tax Advisory Committee pares down a list of applicants’ funding requests and makes recommendations to the council on to how to fund organizations that promote tourism and/or generate “heads in beds” at local hotels.
Until 2013, the council could alter the suggested amounts. That changed, however, when the Legislature ruled that municipal governments can only accept or reject the committee’s choices.
Whether or not future lobbying efforts by cities will reverse that decision is anybody’s guess. For now, though, city leaders are stuck with a process that few seem to like.
“This is a bad system,” said temporary Council Member Bill Gothmann, who is filling in for a convalescing Bill Bates. “The reason it’s a bad system is that the very people who benefit are the same the money goes to. I don’t think that’s good public policy, but that’s the way it is.”
The committee is made up of one council member – currently Ben Wick – along with representatives of business that collect the tax and those authorized to be funded by it.
Wick said the council does have the authority to fund all, some or none of the organizations – just not change the amounts.
“You do have some room there,” he said.
Funded in 2016 will be:
- HUB Sports Center, $40,000
- Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, $17,200
- Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation, $60,650
- Spokane Sports Commission, $121,600
- Spokane County Fair and Expo Center (marketing), $45,000
- Valleyfest, $28,900
- Valleyfest Cycle Celebration, $3,000
- Spokane Valley Economic Development, $80,000
- Visit Spokane, $163,650.