City to collect transient occupancy tax for county

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council approved a resolution Sept. 25 to begin collecting transient occupancy taxes on behalf of Linn County, which has imposed a new 3-percent tax.

The Linn County Board of Commissioners approved the tax during its July 3 meeting.

The tax is collected based on the fees visitors pay to stay in local lodging houses – hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Oregon law allows counties to impose such taxes if at least 70 percent of the revenue collected will be used to fund tourism promotion or tourism-related facilities. No more than 30 percent can be used to cover collection or administrative costs.

Collection began Monday, Oct. 1.

Money collected in the Albany Zip Code areas will go to fund projects at the Expo Center. Fees collected in the rest of the county will go to the county Parks and Recreation Department, which will use it to buy capital equipment.

Commissioner Will Tucker said at the time that although the parks department is completely self-sustaining, “when Brian (Carroll, county parks director) needs to buy capital equipment, like stand-up paddle boards or kayaks to rent, it’s coming out of the General Fund.

“This will allow him to do other things, to add facilities and capabilities that they don’t have today.”

Commissioner John Lindsey emphasized at the time that the tax revenue would be used for capital improvements, “not for payroll.”

He noted that with the amount of camping and recreation offered in Sweet Home and other areas of east Linn County, “it’s self-explanatory.”

He said money from the tax could be used for improvements in communities like Harrisburg, Scio and Mill City as well.

Linn County requested that the city collect the tax and retain 5 percent of what it collects in exchange for the service.

The city has been collecting a 6-percent tax since 1990. The funds are used to support tourism projects in Sweet Home, with a significant amount used to fund the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Information Center, 1575 Main St.

The state imposed a 1 percent tax in 2001, and in 2017, the legislature authorized the Oregon Department of Revenue to collect local the tax on behalf of local governments, similar to the marijuana tax collection system.

The state is not prepared to collect the tax yet, said City Manager Ray Towry.

In lieu of setting up its own tax collection system, with the state preparing to collect, the county asked its cities to collect on behalf of the county.

The city is not responsible for enforcing collections, Towry said. It reports what it bills and what it does not collect on behalf of the county. The county enforces any additional collection measures.

The council voted unanimously to enter the agreement with Linn County. Present were Bob Briana, Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Dave Trask and Diane Gerson. James Goble was absent.

The council also reappointed Eva Jurney to the Library Board. Her new term expires June 30, 2022.