From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 43 - 6/22/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Lodging Tax Political Action Committee to Form
Pinedale Chamber prepares to promote tax

Last Friday night's Pinedale Area Chamber of Commerce annual membership meeting at Lakeside Lodge was dominated by Pinedale's John Godfrey of Godfrey Consulting Services. Mr. Godfrey gave a presentation concerning a countywide lodging tax. He began by explaining what a lodging tax is.

A lodging tax is a small, 1-2.5%, tax added onto the cost of renting a motel room. The tax is collected by the lodger and mailed into the State on the standard sales tax form. The money is then sent back to the county of origin, where it may be spent on the promotion of tourism to the area, or to help support events in the county of origin, explained Mr. Godfrey.

Many towns use their lodging tax revenue to produce promotional materials and services such as web sites and brochures, and others use it to help towns defray the cost of putting on events.

The revenue from the tax may not be used for capitol improvements unless they are directly related to the promotion of tourism.

Currently, 14 of Wyoming's 23 counties have a lodging tax, as do 9 individual cities, said Mr. Godfrey. In the 1999 fiscal year alone, almost 3 million dollars was distributed back to the counties where the tax was collected. In counties with roughly the same population as Sublette, Johnson County collected almost $70,000, and Hot Springs collected $ 43,841. Weston County collected the least amount with $21,660.

Using a conservative estimate of 70% room occupancy rate in the summer and 30 % in the winter, Mr. Godfrey estimated a 2% lodging tax could net about $57,300 per year for Sublette County.

Importantly, a countywide lodging tax would have to be approved by a majority of the county voters.

Greg Ptasnik of Lakeside Lodge said in an interview Monday that almost everyone could benefit from a lodging tax. "The city and county may be looking at a loss of revenue down the road, and we could use the money from the lodging tax to defray the costs incurred to host events such as Rendezvous." This could include many projects from new signage at the fair grounds, to increased promotion of the Ag Center and the Dog Sled race. All this without taxing the locals at all. "If the Town needs revenue, why would we tax ourselves?" asks Mr. Ptasnik.

Previously, lodgers have defeated a lodging tax due to fears that it would increase their paperwork, or make visitors bypass Pinedale due to the tax. Mr. Ptasnik feels these are not really valid issues. "In my six years in the business, no one has ever asked me about the tax structure," he says, adding that it would take "virtually no extra work involved in collecting and reporting the tax, and minimal extra cost." The extra costs would be incurred when lodgers had to pay a minimal collection fee to recoup the tax from credit card sales. "On a $75 room, it would cost 4.5 cents to collect the $1.50 tax from the credit card company" says Mr. Ptasnik. "Since we (the lodgers) stand to directly benefit from the tax, I feel we should absorb some of the cost of collecting it," he adds.

Mr. Ptasnik continued that a group was beginning to gather information to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to explore how they should pursue the issue, best address citizens concerns and reservations about the tax, and get the question on the ballot.

State Representative Louie Tomassi said on Monday that the statewide lodging tax had been bouncing around the capitol for a few years, but nothing had happened yet. Mr. Tomassi also said he would not support a statewide tax, because the money collected in Sublette County would not be used for the direct benefit of the county. As far as a county option tax was concerned, Mr. Tomassi just said it was up to the residents of Sublette County to decide that for themselves.

People with questions about the PAC or lodging tax are encouraged to contact Chamber of Commerce members with any questions or comments about a lodging tax.

Other Chamber News

The chamber board has three vacant seats, and anyone interested in serving on the Chamber of Commerce board is encouraged to contact the Chamber.

Tom Brown noted that membership to the chamber of commerce has increased from 111 in 1997, to 142 this year.

Board Member Will Hampton announced that Rose and Bartley Skinner have been selected as the Grand Marshals of this year's Rendezvous Parade. Mr. Hampton estimated there should be approximately 50 booths lining Pine Street for Rendezvous, and the traditional Traders Row will be located in the park behind the Chamber Hut on Pine. This year, Traders Row will consist of 15 mountain men in authentic pre-1840s costume selling only handcrafted items.

Ms. Hunt has fielded 264 inquires about the Pinedale area this year, mostly by telephone, but e-mail and letters making a substantial showing.

See The Archives for past articles.

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Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul