By ROY WOOD
Council readily okayed a 50-per-cent hike in the local hotel tax on Monday, but ran into a bit more trouble agreeing to allow the revenue flow directly to Destination Osoyoos (DO).
As the town’s designated tourism marketing arm, DO sought council’s approval to raise the tax on hotel rooms from two per cent to three, which will provide an additional $150,000 for its efforts.
Local approval of the increase is required by the province, which traditionally has collected the tax and sent it back to the town, which in turn passes it along to DO. Council unanimously approved the room-tax hike.
Along with the request for the tax increase, DO asked council to change the practice of receiving the money from the province and then forwarding it along to the marketing organization.
The administration recommended that council accede to the request. “Identifying DO to receive … funds directly from the province will free up town staff time for other tasks with no risk to the town,” said the report from chief administrative officer Barry Romanko.
However, Councillors CJ Rhodes and Jim King were sceptical about removing the town’s fingers from the process.
Rhodes was careful no to cast aspersions toward DO, but said he “always (has) a level of comfort when (the money) goes through the town … We have some control.”
He said his concern is not with DO as it exists, “But what happens if (it) changes? … It has to do with issues that might come up in the future.”
King, who is the town’s alternate member of the DO board, said he agrees with Rhodes. “It is prudent for us to filter it through,” he said.
Mayor Sue McKortoff and Councillor Myers Bennett pointed out that DO is required to come to council every November to report its accomplishments and its plans for the coming year. And Romanko reminded council that there is a termination clause in the agreement with DO if the town needs to enforce it.
With McKortoff and Bennett in favour of a resolution to cede control of the funds to DO and Rhodes and King opposed, Councillor Brian Harvey, who joined the meeting by phone from Ontario, was left to break the tie. “I’m in favour,” he said. “I see no reason to keep control.”
Earlier in the meeting council voted to re-new its three-year agreement with DO, which includes an annual payment of $75,000 from the town.