Yelm Business Assn. asks city for Hotel-Motel Tax transparency

Printed in the Nisqually Valley News July 31, 2015:

“Information Wanted on $167K Tax Fund”
Posted online: Thursday, July 30, 2015 12:22 pm

Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted to the Yelm City Council at this week’s meeting.

Dear City Council Members and Mayor Harding:

The Yelm Business Association (YBA) requests the current status of the city of Yelm’s hotel/motel tax fund and committee makeup.

On Jan. 13, 2015, the Yelm City Council approved the establishment of a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which defined the duties and functions of the committee and established an effective date.

From the city staff report:

“Any county, city or town that has imposed the hotel/motel (lodging) tax and has a population of 5,000 or more is required to establish and maintain a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee per RCW 67.28.1817. The committee’s membership must be a minimum of five members confirmed by the council and made up of equal number of business members of the community that collect the tax and eligible agencies that request funding from the revenue collected from the tax, including any municipality, used directly or indirectly through convention, visitors bureau or destination marketing.

“One member shall be an elected official of the municipality who shall serve as chair of the committee.”

City Council Member Bob Isom remarked during the meeting that, “One of the requirements is a minimum of two members who are representatives of businesses required to collect the lodging tax. Now I see an issue here because we’ve only got one business (that collects the tax, Prairie Hotel).” Mr. Isom may not be aware that Yelm does actually have a bed and breakfast establishment within the city limits, Conley Suites Bed & Breakfast, which could also send a member to the committee. City Administrator Shelly Badger said the city’s attorney would be consulted for an opinion before committee members are selected.

The Yelm Municipal Code Chapter 3.84 also states:

“This tax may be levied only for the purpose of paying all or any part of the cost of acquisition, construction, or operating of stadium facilities, convention center facilities, performing arts center facilities and/or visual art center or museum facilities or to pay for advertising, publicizing, or otherwise distributing information for the purpose of attracting visitors and encouraging tourist expansion or for other approved state statute uses. (Ord. 479 § 2, 1993).”

As a business organization, the YBA feels that this tax fund directly affects local businesses in that it is designed to attract consumers to Yelm. These consumers would be purchasing our businesses’ goods and services, touring the area, and taking away an impression of Yelm that we would hope is favorable.

On Jan. 13, 2015, the lodging tax fund reportedly had a balance of $167,000. The YBA would like to inquire as to the current balance of the collected tax funds, their availability, the status of the committee, and whether funds are collected from establishments in Yelm other than the Prairie Hotel. Would the city be interested in sending a representative to educate YBA members about the committee and dissemination of funds?

Sincerely,

Yelm Business Association Board Members: Molly Carmody, Cynthia Schmier, Steve Klein, Steve Craig and Bill Hashim; and Executive Director Daniel W. Crowe
Click here for the letter included in the official correspondence for the July 28 City Council Agenda.