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Thurston County awarded lodging tax grants to 5 organizations –
Why has Yelm’s lodging tax funds still not been distributed?

Story highlights
* In 2012, a $2 extra per room hotel tax was initiated to fund tourism promotion, reported here,
* Yelm’s Prairie Hotel began collecting the hotel/motel tax which went into a city account,
* Mayor Harding was required to form a committee to disburse the taxes, yet never did,
* On January 13, 2015, Harding & council finally established a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee,
* Action languished, so the YBA called on Harding for transparency and to disseminate the funds,
* On March 14, 2017, the council confirmed 5 members to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee,
* The council noted then $213,000 of funds were collected, (near $250,000) today.
* The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee last met in November 2017.
* Now 2018, the Committee has no scheduled meeting to disburse those funds to support tourism.
* Yelm has an excellent opportunity for visitor promotion, yet allows this to slowly ebb.
* Why have 5+ years passed and funds not yet disbursed? Council needs to be asking questions!
* The city talks of economic/tourism development, yet lack of actions speak louder than words.

– Editor’s Note:
While Thurston County has distributed their Lodging Tax funds, Yelm still has not done so, three years after the creating the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
A brief history of the Yelm Committee:

On January 13, 2015, Yelm’s 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 and a then-reported fund balance of $167,000.

On July 28, 2015, the Yelm Business Assn. (YBA) presented a letter to the council requesting the status of the city of Yelm’s hotel/motel tax fund, committee makeup, and transparency from the mayor and the city, as there had been no adequate response from then-Mayor Harding.

On March 14, 2017, two+ years after the establishment of a committee, the Yelm City Council presented the fund’s balance of $213,000 (nearly $250,000 today) and confirmed an initial six member group: 2 representatives from the lodging industry included Yelm’s Prairie Hotel owner Margaret Clapp and manager Denise Hibbeln, Yelm Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Line Critchfield, Yelm Business Association President Cynthia Schmier, Yelm’s Finance Director, and Yelm Mayor JW Foster, who has now disseminated this role to City Administrator Michael Grayum.

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.”

Yelm’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee last convened in November 2017 with no action taken and no meeting is currently scheduled.

– “Thurston County lodging tax grants awarded”
“Thurston County’s Board of County Commissioners voted on Feb. 27 to approve 2018 Lodging Tax Grant Awards to five organizations who met the necessary criteria.

The funds were awarded through the Public Stadium, Convention, Arts, and Tourism excise tax fund. Money from the fund is earmarked to be awarded to organizations that promote tourism with their events or facilities.”

“Overseeing these grants is The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC). The LTAC received five applications in 2018. All five applicants were awarded grants, for a total of $41,000” quoting the Business Examiner. [Note: None were in Yelm.]
Read more

Posted by Steve on March 5, 2018 at 12:03 am | Permalink

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