Benton County Adopts Transient Lodging Tax
At a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, the proposal to implement a transient lodging tax passed unanimously. This tax does not directly affect County residents since tourists and visitors primarily stay in hotels and other lodging facilities within the County.
As allowed under ORS 320.300, Benton County will impose a 3% county-wide Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) effective July 1, 2019 via Ordinance 2019-294 that will create Chapter 39 Transient Lodging Tax in the Benton County Code. The tax will apply to facilities with lodgers of short-term stays less than 30 days and with rental availability to the public of more than 30 days in a calendar year. This includes hotels, motels, resorts, inns, bed & breakfasts, cabins, lodges, RV sites and campgrounds, vacation rental houses, and any other dwelling unit used for temporary overnight stays.
Benton County departments impacted by the TLT, including County Counsel, Community Development, Finance, Information Technology, Board of Commissioners Office, and Fairgrounds, held meetings over the past year to discuss the logistics of implementing the ordinance and how it would be administered. Further, the Community Development Department has developed a plan to address the permitting of vacation rentals by owners. Based on these discussions a TLT ordinance (Ord. 2019-0294) was drafted that would address the operational needs of the various Benton County departments.
Meetings with stakeholders including the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), Visit Corvallis, Oregon State University, and the Corvallis Benton County Economic Development Department were held during 2018 to gain input and address any concerns.
As a potential recipient of TLT funds, the Benton County Fair Board contracted with Markin Consulting in August 2018 to conduct a market demand study and develop an updated master plan for the Benton County Event Center & Fairgrounds that would enhance the facilities for tourism and economic development. Members of Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and Visit Corvallis participated as stakeholders during the public engagement phase of the master plan process. The preferred master plan layout was accepted by the Benton County Board of Commissioners on April 2, 2019.
The first reading of Ordinance No. 2019-0294 was conducted on April 16, 2019. The second reading was conducted on May 21, 2019 and thusly the ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2019.
70% of transient lodging tax revenues go towards “tourism promotion” or “tourism-related facilities.” Currently 16 of 35 Oregon counties collect TLT. Linn County instituted a 3% county tax effective October 1, 2018, which will benefit the Linn County Expo Center and Parks Department. The City of Corvallis imposes a 9% TLT, which generated $1.754 million in FY 2017. Based on those revenues a 3% Benton County TLT would result in an annual income of approximately $584,664 within the city limits.
30% of the TLT revenues may be allocated for any county services, including the costs to administer the TLT. This is known as the 70/30 distribution. The distribution of TLT funds will be determined by the Benton County Board of Commissioners following the 70/30 requirement.