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County seeks more hotel taxes

"Island County wants more money to promote tourism on Whidbey Island, and on Wednesday it is going to ask the city of Langley and South Whidbey to provide a large chunk of it.Taking the advice of a tourism consulting firm, the county is asking Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor to raise their hotel-motel lodging taxes and to give the new revenues over to a joint administration board. The goal, according to a draft interlocal agreement given to the three cities, is to increase the number of overnight stays in local hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.The county’s proposal would raise Langley’s lodging tax by 1 percent to a total of 4 percent. Lodging taxes in the unincorporated county would go up by 2 percent to a total of 4 percent. But for this to happen, the cities must agree to sign on to the agreement. Langley’s city council will take its first look at the agreement tonight at its 6:30 meeting at City Hall, and will begin the process of accepting or rejecting the county’s proposal.The proposal may not be entirely fair to the Southend. According to figures compiled by Langley’s clerk-treasurer, Debbie Mahler, 60 percent of the $39,984 in lodging taxes the county collected in 1998 came from Southend establishments. Langley’s collections alone exceed the county’s, hitting almost $50,000 in 1998.But, under the structure of the interlocal agreement, Langley and the Southend would be in the minority on the joint administration board that would spend the funds. In all, the board would be comprised of five members from the unincorporated county, five from Oak Harbor, three from Coupeville, and three from Langley. Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman said he does not know whether the city council will approve the agreement. “I have no idea which way the council will go,” he said.Although he said he will maintain a neutral stance on the county’s proposal, Furman said he has a modified interlocal agreement of his own waiting for the council’s consideration on Wednesday. He did not reveal the details of his proposed agreement.Langley citizens, hotel, motel, and bed and breakfast owners and managers are encouraged to attend tonight’s meeting to comment on the proposed agreement."

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