Compromise reached on Bend room tax hike

Phased-in 1.4 pct. increase goes to city councilors July 10th

POSTED: 7:30 PM PDT June 26, 2013    UPDATED: 11:20 PM PDT June 26, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

After two days of negotiations, hotel owners and other Bend-area business leaders announced a compromise Wednesday evening on a controversial proposal to raise the city's room tax.

"Once we understood what each group was focused on and what their key objectives were, then we got to the business of hammering out a compromise," Mt. Bachelor President Dave Rathbun said.

The deal, which would trim the proposed tax hike from 2 to 1.4 percent, was announced at a roundtable meeting at the Bend Municipal Court chambers, hosted by Rathbun and Visit Bend CEO Doug LaPlaca, who were on opposite sides of the debate but agreed to try to find common ground.

'We have settled on a 1.4 percent increase to the TRT (transient room tax)," Rathbun told the audience.

Under the plan, voters would be asked in November to raise the current city room tax rate of 9 percent by 1 percent next June, and the other .4 of a percent would be added the following year.

The proposal would raise funds for police and fire services, as well as tourism and arts promotion.

"I think in the end a good compromise is one where neither party is happy, and I think we reached it," said Bend Chamber of Commerce President Tim Casey.

Several high-end hotel operators had backed the original proposal, but those running middle- and lower-priced hotels and motels expressed concerns about the impact on their more price-sensitive business.

After the compromise proposal was announced, some hotel owners said they still believe the tax increase on one particular industry is not fair. They said they wanted to see a tax on other industry, like the arts, that's benefiting from the proposed tax.

"There are going to be some folks who don't want to see a tax (hike) at all," Casey said. "And I think voters should have that opportunity in November, to decide whether they want to move forward with it."

The Bend City Council will discuss the compromise proposal at a special meeting scheduled for July 10th at 5 p.m.