Josephine County Ballot measure asks lodging tax advisory question

Josephine County Ballot measure 17-90 seeks lodging tax advisory question (News10/Jonathan Brines)

Voters in Josephine County are being asked to weigh-in on a proposed lodging tax, Measure 17-90, slated to be imposed for motels, hotels, camping sites and vacation home rentals like Airbnb.

The non-binding ballot measure will advise the Josephine County Board of Commissioners who would be required to hold a second vote before a tax could be official.

"Josephine County routinely uses these non-binding questions to gauge our citizens’ opinions on issues and really take the pulse of the community," Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung said.

If voters approve, commissioners are expected to hold public hearings and propose a tax rate first.

"I’m eager to see the results, because I believe this could significantly benefit county tourism," DeYoung said. "By law, at least 70% of net revenue collected from such a tax would be used to fund tourism promotion and related facilities — and in fact, we would likely earmark almost all of the revenue for that purpose."

Jason Brandt President of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association wants more dialogue between hotel and motel operators and elected officials to see if a tax increase is proper.

"If county lodging operators feel a new tax would increase lodging stays and act as an investment due to how the money is spent then we could support the tax," Brandt said in a statement to News 10. "If they question the plan for how a new county sales tax on lodging properties would be spent then we stand in opposition. To date, lodging operators in the county have not expressed support for the plan."

If the tax gets implemented lodging operators could be at a disadvantage because neither Jackson County or neighboring Douglas County impose such a tax. However Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland have imposed a nine-percent tax for lodging in the city limits. The City of Grants Pass netted $1.5 million last year on the tax alone.

"Since the question on the ballot is non binding we encourage the county to have active conversations with lodging operators to determine whether they feel their sales tax should be increased," Brandt said. "If they are not convinced we would ask the county to respect the industry’s wishes and not increase their sales tax at this time."

Josephine County Board of Commissioners have not officially voted to suppose or oppose a tax, however Lily Morgan has signaled that she favors a 8-percent tax in rural areas and a two-percent tax in Grants Pass. Keep in mind, next year the State of Oregon's lodging tax drops to 1.5-percent.

The official Voters' Pamphlet for the election lists no arguments for or against a lodging tax. No proposed rates are suggested.

"If there’s support — and I imagine there will be — we’ll start to look at developing specifics and holding public hearings," DeYoung said. "A Transient Lodging tax would not take effect until approved by voters in a future election."

Those who have cast ballots must return them to the clerk's office or designated drop-boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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