New lodging tax process needed | Letter

I’d like to address the issue of by what logic and process the lodging tax funds are allocated. While I was executive director of IMA (the San Juan Islands Museum of Art) I participated in our solicitation for funds from this program, and I must admit, that I was always bewildered by the process. On the surface, the process and criterion should be extremely simple.

My understanding was that the tax was levied for the purpose of accumulating funds to provide support for the organizations that attracted the tourists, who in turn spent funds for; food, accommodations, etc., which were in turn taxed. Consequently, one would think that the process of allocating the lodging tax funds would be starkly simple: Determine who attracted the greatest number of tourists, (“head in the beds” – their term), particularly ones who came from off island, and then allocate the funds proportionately. Instead, the review committee requires the requesting organizations to justify their request based on new programs being introduced, which the committee will judge, but in fact is poorly qualified to assess.

Why not simply use the results of all the past projects that the organization has created as the measure of how effective they are in bringing “heads in the beds?”

These organizations are all nonprofit operations badly in need of financial support. They are going to do their very best to create effective programs. Their long-term objectives are in direct alignment with the LTAC program.

Moreover, starving ongoing efforts in favor of new projects sets the stage for the gradual gutting of the organization. Trust these successful organizations to continue doing what they have proven they do well, without being second-guessed and micromanaged.

Final point. Using a subjective process versus one based on hard data can create the unfortunate belief that a subjective and potentially biased view of an organization and individuals, is playing a major part in the decision process.

Charlie Bodenstab

Friday Harbor