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Bend voters to decide fate of room tax increase

By John Hendricks
Published On: Jul 11 2013 01:24:44 AM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the Bend room tax hike which will now head to voters

BEND, Ore. -

Come November, voters will decide if the tax visitors to Bend pay should rise. The Bend City Council voted 5-2 at a special meeting Wednesday night to send the new transient room tax compromise proposal to voters.

If passed, the rate visitors pay at places at hotels and vacation rental homes will increase from 9 percent to 10.4 percent in twp steps over the next two years. On June 1st, 2014 the rate would rise to 10 percent, then on June 1st, 2015, it would go up another .4 percent.

The new proposal was put together by business leaders in Bend, both for and against an earlier proposal that would have raised the tax by 2 percent, all at once. The group spent two days meeting and discussing what they wanted to see happen.

"Could we have done better? I don't know," said Wayne Purcell, owner of The Riverhouse, who opposed the original proposal. "We worked really hard, and did the best we could."

Purcell has been arguing the increase will hurt business in what some describe as a fragile economy.

"It was a lot of work (to reach a compromise), but it was the right thing to do," Visit Bend President Doug LaPlaca said.

Before they voted Wednesday night, councilors weighed in.

Victor Chudosky, voted no, arguing it would put too many money measures on the ballot.

"Are we going to just say yes to all of these, or do we rank order them?" Chudosky said. "Or do we decide that some of these are critical? Fire department is critical."

He added that he thought it was important make sure everything the council sends to the voters had solid footing.

Counselor Mark Capell took a different view.

"We can make an argument that we should prioritize all those and only going after the highest priority," he said. "But what that says is, you don't believe the voters are smart enough to figure it out themselves."

Scott Ramsay also voted no, saying the people voting for the tax aren't the ones who will be paying for it.

"It's like people who don't own property voting for the park bond -- they don't have to pay it," Ramsay said.

In the end, Ramsay and Chudosky voted no, while Jodie Barram, Doug Knight, Sally Russell, Capell and Mayor Jim Clinton voted yes.

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