From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 9 - 10/26/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Taking Sides on the Lodging Tax Debate

Tax Forum

When I arrived in Pinedale about a month ago for fall fishing vacation, I read in the local press about a proposal to increase the tax on lodging from 4% to 7%. I understand the voters of Sublette County will vote on this resolution in November. The tax is supposedly being collected to promote the area, and has even been called a " user fee" by the proponents of the tax. As a visitor was returned to the Pinedale area for 26 years, I have some thoughts would like to share with you about the issue.

First of all, a tax imposed on people who don't even get to vote on it or participate in the decisions of how the money is used is taxation without representation. Some people here in America don't like that much. Let's remind ourselves how our nation responded to that sort of thing in Boston in 1773.

Second, I already pay user fees in the form of nonresident fishing licenses, campground fees, access fees, assessments on tackle and recreational equipment (Wallop/Breaux amendment) not to mention that portion of my federal taxes allocated for Public Lands . In the many trips I have made to the Pinedale area, I have easily spent over an entire year's salary on motel rooms, restaurants, outfitters, and other local businesses. Why proponents of the lodging tax target visitors like me who are already major contributors to the local economy is really baffling. I did not read in the press about any use of this tax that would encourage me to return.

Third, the tax is not fair because only those visitors to stay in motels are assessed. What about the visitors to stop in town for a break on a long drive up to Jackson? They shop for a gift for someone back home, purchase an extra jacket for the cool evenings, enjoy a meal at one of pinedale's fine restaurants, or just fill those hefty RV's or SUV's with gas. Then the move on through, while people like me, (who already like your town) get to pay a new tax to get them to stay. Of course, but proponents of this tax don't want to place any additional taxes on businesses they themselves depend on, a totally selfish point of view, and backstabbing as well. It did not escape my attention that most of the tourists who support your community had already gone back home to work , their kids in school , when this resolution had the papers .

Fourth, I believe the tax will have a greater negative impact on a local economy than the tax collected. In my case, when my budget vacation dollars are spent, I go home and go back to work. Fewer meals in your restaurants, fewer nights in your motels, less money to spend on other businesses are obvious parts of the equation of a lodging tax is imposed .

Fifth, and probably the most important, I don't think Pinedale needs promoting, and I suspect most of the area residents agree. The high country is overcrowded, fewer landowners permit camping, hunting and fishing on their property, and areas leased for public use are shared by too many cows, too many gas wells and too many people to be beautiful and fun anymore. The only people who want to bring more people into this area are business owners whose rates are already too high or his services are too shabby to encourage return clientele. Possibly a few narrow minded individuals who like the idea of a tax they don't have to pay will succumb to the propaganda of the proponents of lodging tax. I don't want another Jackson, and most of you don't either, so why vote to head your town and area further in that direction?

Mark R. Denekas
Littleton, CO

And from Ohio...

My wife and I have been regular visitors to Pinedale for over twenty years. We enjoy and recommend this community for it's friendliness and small town atmosphere. Recently, I was in Houston, Texas on business and was assessed an onerous 17% lodging tax for which I had no vote. Guess how I remember Houston! Now, I've learned that Sublette County is considering a lodging tax - to promote tourism. I hope Pinedale's not going to emulate Houston's taxes. Or Jackson's sprawl.

Lynn Frock
Cincinnati, OH

Pinedale Weighs In

One of the concerns that I have heard regarding the lodging tax is that it could turn potential travelers away from Pinedale, and that any increase in our lodging rates will force people to go elsewhere. I was interested in what travelers paid in other communities they travel to, so I asked other business owners in this industry. This is interesting. Remember, if we add the lodging tax, our total tax will be 7%. Here is what some of them had to say.

"Lodging or 'bed' tax is fairly standard fixture in the lodging industry. As is the case in most North Carolina counties, we add 9 percent tax (6% sales + 3& lodging) to every lodging bill. In our five years, I can't recall one person

"Here in San Antonio they just raised us up to 16.75%-one of the highest in the country! So far we haven't seen too much of a negative response from potential guests; but I have a feeling it's going to begin to hit our convention industry. I think that most of your guests come to experience the mountains etc., something that is not going to change by such a small percentage unless your rate will be drastically higher." - San Antonio, Texas

"Our State and Hospitality tax comes to a total of 12.36%. The city upped it 2% from 10.36% a couple of years ago in order to pay for the expansion of the convention center. I personally, have had very few people complain about the tax, but I do feel it's a bit excessive. Of course, the last time I was in San Francisco (quite a few years ago), the tax was 17% so I guess it's all relative." - Louisville, KY

"Lodging tax is pretty invisible, like sales tax. We don't make a big deal out of it. But we do show it as a separate item on our confirmations and check in materials. They don't refuse to stay with you because it is way too hard to figure out who has it and who doesn't (and many places do). When I first started collecting it I heard that the highest single hotel/motel tax anyone had encountered was 17%. The person said they traveled a lot and expected to pay it. If you are only getting 2 or 4% you are way behind many others. It's a painless way to raise money to promote tourism. And it's paid for by the very people involved NOT locals. In our small town we collect 5% hotel/motel and 6.5% sales. In Atlanta we collected 7% hotel/motel and 6% sales tax (a few years ago)." - Georgia

"We have had a 3% lodging tax in addition to the MD 5% sales tax since 1992. In the beginning all the inns were terribly upset about it. Then we got a tourism office with a tourism director paid with the lodging tax and everybody settled down. Never has a guest ever commented on our tax, however I do is when I visit NY City and have to pay 18% tax on my hotel bill. Now that's outrages!!! - Maryland

"We have a 6% state tax and 3% lodging tax. In 8 years I can only remember one person asking ahead of time what our taxes were. I've had a few question the amount of tax on the bill, but once you explain there

is a local lodging tax they just pay it. I don't believe we've lost any guests, repeat or otherwise because of the taxes, although 3% is pretty low. - Danville, OH

"In Louisville we pay 12.36% (6% room tax, and 6% state sales tax). - Kentucky

"We collect 5% bed tax and 7% sales tax = 12% total." - Georgia

"Re lodging tax. It's 6% here in Bandon, Oregon. I expect it will go up, because this town gets so little money out of other taxes. I don't recall ever staying anywhere where there wasn't a lodging tax, though I know such places exist. In spite of lots of whining by lodging owners, I have not heard anything to indicate it makes any real difference in occupancy." - Oregon

"Indianapolis has a 5% sales tax and an additional 6% bed (lodging) tax. This is true for hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast establishments. Not one person has made a negative comment about the tax. I am not aware of anyone who selected a surrounding city for lodging rather than pay the extra tax." - Indianapolis, IN

In Newport, Oregon, our transient occupancy tax is 7%. I have never had a visitor complain about paying it, nor have I ever lost a reservation when I explained that the TOT would be added to the room rate. I always give them a total per evening that includes the rate. Occasionally, we get questions here about the tax, but that is primarily because Oregon does not have a sales tax and the TOT varies from city to city and from county to county. Since lodging tax is ubiquitous, guests expect to pay it." - Oregon

"Just thought you all might appreciate this... we run a B&B in Mexico and the tax is 17%! It's 15% Value Added Tax and then 2% bed tax. So far we haven't had any complaints about it - I guess people just figure they're going to be paying tax wherever they end up and so look for the cheaper base rate." - Mexico

As you can see, a lodging tax is common across the country. Also keep in mind that traveling is a choice, not a necessity like food and shelter. If someone is traveling for pleasure, or business, the majority of them can afford an extra 3% on our already lower room rates, and tax rates. This is money that tourists are willing to contribute to our community. As one gentleman pointed out, not collecting the tax is like leaving money on the table. I can't afford to throw money away. Can you? Vote Yes for the Lodging tax.

Leanne Rellstab

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