ANOTHER VOICE: Let transient room taxes do their job

With the annexation to the City of the Westcliff Drive lodging properties decided upon, the implications will come to bear on a wider range of our local Hood River economy than many expect. The discussion of how taxes are taken in, allocated, and spent is a conversation that is long overdue in this community.

Transient room tax has become an increasingly important component (11 percent, second-largest line item) of the City budget. It is a 9 percent tax, imposed on lodging properties (hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals) based on revenue. In short, it is a sales tax. One percent is used to fund state tourism marketing. The original intention of the remainder of this tax was to help communities encourage and grow tourism.

Today, many communities have shifted the use of this tax to general fund government business. In Hood River County, 90 percent of the funds collected through TRT are reinvested with the Chamber’s Visitors Council to be used for collective marketing of the Hood River area as a whole.

The City has allocated only 25 percent of its growing TRT revenue to market through the Visitor’s Council; the other 75 percent is lumped into the general fund.

TRT allocated to the Visitors Council has been well-used to bolster demand for the Hood River area. A 1 percent reduction in lodging industry occupancy results in, very conservatively, $300,000 fewer dollars spent in our local economy. This number is derived from the current Hood River lodging market size and extrapolated using the Longwoods International Report.

Simply put, a reduction in Hood River marketing will reduce aggregate demand, thus reducing growth and tax revenues compared to what would be more economically beneficial.

We have two options: Fight over allocating stagnant money, or reinvest to increase demand for everyone’s businesses.

The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Council has long taken on the role of Hood River marketing and promotion. This marketing is done on a scale very few of the local businesses could afford or accomplish alone.

By pooling of the TRT marketing revenue, Kerry Cobb has created cooperative advertising opportunities for Chamber businesses, that provide additional leveraged funds to attract more visitors — who will generate even more TRT. It is the primary marketing vehicle and largest influencer of non-organic aggregate demand Hood River has.

Proof of this effort is manifest in our economic performance relative to the surrounding area. For 2012, the Mt. Hood/Gorge area saw occupancy drop 6.4 percent compared to 2011, according to Smith Travel Research. For the entire state, occupancy increased 1.3 percent.

Despite this, the lodging industry increased its TRT contribution to the City of Hood River by 5.2 percent. This outperformance, compared to the state, brought in an additional $1.228 million to our local economy using Longwoods ratios.

The Visitors Council’s marketing efforts played a very large role in achieving our shared outperformance.

Ask any tourist-related business in town and they will tell you how important it is to get people to Hood River. Yes, we need drivable roads, police, firefighters, teachers, and everyone else who serves the general public; but without people visiting our area from around the world, our local economic growth will be stunted.

If we want a higher quality of life, we need to focus on the things that bring money into a community as a whole, not play 3 Card Monte with what we already have.

n

Grant Polson lives in Hood River.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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