PROPOSED HARNEY COUNTY TRANSIENT LODGING TAX (TLT)
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Issue: Harney County is seeking voter approval to collect a transient lodging tax (TLT), county-wide. This will be on the ballot in October/November 2020. This information is being provided to help inform the voters.
Background: Harney County provides services and facilities for residents of the entire county – including the City of Burns, City of Hines, and the unincorporated, rural communities of our vast frontier county – and wants to be able to sustain them. Implementing a transient lodging tax (TLT) provides a new source of sustained tax revenue that is paid for, not by Harney County residents, but by guests using commercial lodging facilities in Harney County.
What is the Harney County Transient Lodging Tax (TLT)? The Harney County Court approved Harney County Ordinance No. 2020-02 imposing a 6% tax on lodging guests at hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, condos, RV Parks, campgrounds, vacation rentals and other similar transient lodging facilities for stays less than 30 days. However, this tax cannot be effective unless the voters approve. This is not a tax on homeless people. This is not a tax to raise money to lodge homeless people.
Residents of Harney County, Burns and Hines are not being taxed.
Travelers, visitors, and short term lodgers will pay this tax.
By state law, seventy percent (70%) of the net county lodging tax collections are dedicated for tourism promotion and tourism related facilities; thirty percent (30%) may be used to fund other county services. Harney County TLT tax collections will go directly to fund, improve, and sustain the Harney County Fairgrounds, Harney County Library (Western History Room), Search and Rescue, and the general fund.
Which other Oregon counties have implemented a TLT? TLT is a widespread and accepted tax already implemented in many Oregon counties and cities. As of last year, 15 of 36 Oregon counties already assess taxes on hotel lodging county-wide. Many more Oregon cities have already implemented a TLT.
Anticipated Revenue from this TLT: This measure may raise an estimated $210,000 for tourism promotion and tourism-related facilities in Harney County; and approximately $90,000 for other county services. By state law, lodging operators may retain 5% of tax collections for their administrative costs.
Concerns about a Harney County TLT: At least one hotel manager has expressed his concern that the additional tax added to guest bills may deter travelers from staying in Harney County hotels, and that a drop in hotel business may put hotel employee jobs at risk.
Support for a Harney County TLT: This is supported by many individuals who are concerned about the county’s ability to continue to afford facility upkeep and services at the current level. Harney County is in need of additional revenue, and this tax is one that will be paid by visitors rather than residents.