Town of Friday Harbor Council recommends lodging tax grants | Update

If you spend it, they will come.

That’s the idea behind the town’s lodging tax, which awards local individuals and organizations to draw tourists to Friday Harbor.

On Oct. 4, the town council recommended granting nine local organizations a total of $230,000 in lodging tax funds in 2019. The allocations will be finalized when the council adopts their 2019 budget in December.

For 2019, Town of Friday Harbor staff have $5,000 more in revenue to award than the year before.

The following recommendations were made: San Juan Island Visitors Bureau for $180,538; San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce for $3,278; The Whale Museum for $15,143; the Friday Harbor Film Festival for $8,550; the San Juan Islands Museum of Art for $6,478; TEDx San Juan for $3,760; the San Juan Island Agriculture Guild for $2,450; San Juan Community Theatre for $5,843; and Friends of Lime Kiln Society for $3,960.

The lodging tax is a state tax that charges consumers at local, short-term lodgings, like hotels. Part of that revenue is given to town staff to award organizations that support tourism in Friday Harbor.

Four fewer applicants applied for funds in 2019 than the year before. The town staff advertised for the grants in the summer, and the council heard proposals in September.

Every organization that applied was awarded and received fewer funds than they requested.

The following is the difference between requests and the council’s recommendations: San Juan Island Visitors Bureau, $14,962; San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce, $322; The Whale Museum, $12,155; the Friday Harbor Film Festival, $9,350; the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, $6,522; TEDx San Juan, $7,240; the San Juan Island Agriculture Guild, $5,830; San Juan Community Theatre, $9,157; and Friends of Lime Kiln Society, $10,996.

The town council also awarded the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce $56,000 for operations and $17,500 for the July 4 fireworks at previous meetings.

The lodging tax funds, once finalized, will be distributed as reimbursements of paid expenses in 2019. According to the grant’s application, preferences for the funds were given to projects in the spring and fall, and those scheduled during high-traffic weekends were not recommended.

“The lodging tax provides the town with the ability to strategically promote tourism in Friday Harbor, which over the last several years means promotion during the shoulder and off-seasons,” said Duncan Wilson, the town’s administrator. He added that lodging tax funds were used to construct Breezeway Park and the public restrooms in Sunshine Alley.

San Juan County also has a lodging tax, and its council will make recommendations for awardees by November.

View the town’s report on the 2019 allocations below.