City eyes hotel tax increase

The Ashland City Council will discuss whether to raise the city's lodging tax during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

The current 7 percent tax will bring in an estimated $1,525,000 for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Raising the tax to 8 percent would generate about $1,743,000, or an additional $218,000.

A bump up to 9 percent would bring in approximately $1,961,000, or $436,000 more, according to Ashland Finance Department projections.

Under state law, 70 percent of any lodging tax increase must be used to promote tourism.

If the City Council wants to move forward on raising the tax, it must schedule a future public hearing on the issue.

The tax applies to lodging businesses such as hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns.

Increasing the tax could generate more money for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Oregon Shakespeare Festival to promote tourism.

The city could also have more Economic and Cultural Development Grant money to distribute to smaller groups such as the Ashland Independent Film Festival, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and the Ashland Gallery Association. The grants are funded by lodging taxes.

On Thursday night, the Citizens' Budget Committee had to figure out how to divide $125,410 among two dozen groups that submitted $320,690 in grant proposals.

None got the full amount they requested and some received no funding.

For the first time, the Citizens' Budget Committee awarded $5,000 to Ashland's Bed and Breakfast Network to market visits to town and stays in bed and breakfast inns. If the group's marketing is successful, it could attract more visitors and boost lodging tax revenues.

Raising the lodging tax by — or 2 percent could provide $160,000 to $225,000 for economic development and a community visioning process about the future.

However, at earlier meetings where members of lodging and tourism businesses were invited to share their opinions, many people said raising the tax at a time when the economy is heading into a recession is not a good idea.

Some also said room rates, ticket prices and restaurant prices are already high in Ashland, and raising the lodging tax could cause visitors to reduce their spending on activities.

In other business, the council is scheduled to:


162; approve a resolution authorizing $304,000 in low-interest bonds to pay for a community solar project;


162; discuss a report on the implementation of community policing;


162; discuss public art funding options;


162; decide whether to approve various Ashland Municipal Code changes related to parks, solicitation, tenant rights, wood stoves, social gambling and duties of the City Attorney.

For a complete list of agenda items and details on each item, visit /Page.asp?NavID=10973.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or To post a comment, visit .

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