The group that recommends how to spend Spokane Valley’s hotel taxes got a second look this week at how to spend $572,000.
Spokane Valley’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee on Tuesday reviewed revisions made by the City Council to the group’s recommendations for spending the lodging tax next year.
The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee – composed of one council member, two representatives from businesses collecting the tax and two representatives from organizations authorized to receive the tax – is tasked with recommending to the City Council which tourism-related organizations should receive grant funding each year.
Spokane Valley expects to collect $572,000 in 2018 from its 3.3 percent lodging tax generated from hotel stays, which is used to promote conventions and tourism.
The advisory committee on Oct. 19 allocated $322,000 in grant funds for 10 organizations and $250,000 to the city’s 1.3 percent lodging tax fund dedicated toward a large sports venue or facility to draw in overnight guests.
However, because community members raised questions surrounding transparency of the grant allocation process and why regional groups were allocated a large chunk of funds rather than Spokane Valley-based organizations, the City Council performed its own review last month.
The council diverted $58,600 from the Spokane Sports Commission to Spokane Valley organizations such as Crave NW, Valleyfest and Oktoberfest as well as kept $250,000 in the lodging tax fund for construction to benefit tourism.
Advisory committee member Lee Cameron agreed with the City Council’s recommendation to keep $250,000 in the lodging tax fund.
“We at the LTAC have commented for a number of years regarding the importance of a sports complex or tourism related facility,” Lee said. “Sports is probably the largest market segment we benefit from in the Valley. We have for many, many years sought out the idea for a major sports complex in the Valley.”
Councilman Sam Wood said a sports facility is very important to the Valley.
“We need money and we need as much money as we can get in that (lodging tax fund),” he said. “I, personally, wouldn’t mind putting more money in that fund.”
Advisory committee member Colleen Heinselman said while she agrees with the City Council’s recommendation to keep $250,000 in the lodging tax fund for a sports facility, she will stick with LTAC’s original recommendation made on Oct. 19.
“I spent hours before the presentation trying to decide on numbers, and I thought the numbers were justified,” she said.
Wood said he compromised on a couple of funding recommendations at the Nov. 21 council meeting, but hopes the advisory committee meeting Tuesday eased citizen concerns.
“I have to say, I’m a little sad this process had to be redone,” Wood said. “You folks put in a lot of hard work. Hopefully, the citizens out there will be satisfied now there was a due process. I hope the power of this committee is respected going forward and we’ve remedied the problems.”
The City Council is expected to review advisory committee comments and finalize funding allocations at its Jan. 9 meeting.
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