Even though their power has been taken away, the Spokane Valley City Council still wants to have a say in deciding which organizations and groups are awarded funding from the lodging taxes paid by travelers staying in local hotels.
Changes in state law have given the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee the power to determine which organization is awarded how much. In the past the council could accept, reject or modify those recommendations, but no more. Now the council can only accept or reject the committee’s decision.
Councilman Ben Wick, who heads up the committee, recently gathered the committee members to discuss the changes in the law and discuss goals the City Council is creating to help guide the disbursement process.
At the core of the debate is whether the lodging tax money should only go to events or organizations that generate overnight hotel stays, known as “heads in beds.”
“We wanted to include not just heads in beds, but the economic impact from dining and shopping,” Wick said. “Another goal is to develop the assets that we have, use the capital funding side.”
That could include upgrading local venues to make them more attractive to those looking to host a tournament or other sporting event, he said.
Usually a straightforward process, lodging tax funding allocations have been controversial the past two years.
The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee has failed to recommend funding for Valleyfest, based on the argument that it doesn’t generate enough hotel stays.
In both cases, the City Council voted to give money to the event anyway. With the new law, the council won’t have that option. Valleyfest has consistently received lodging tax money since the city incorporated in 2003.
Wick acknowledged that the committee will not be required to consider the goals the council creates.
“They are not binding, no” he said. “Hopefully it gives them the thought process of what the council has been looking for. We never gave them any goals before.”
The city has also changed the lodging tax funding application to be in line with the new state laws.
“We tried to make is simpler and more straightforward,” Wick said.
The application period will begin soon and the committee will meet on Oct. 16 to hear presentations from the applicants.
“I am hopeful that we can work in agreement together,” Wick said.