Transient tax, take 2

As readers of the Daily Tidings are undoubtedly aware, our mayor and City Council earlier this year approved the hiring of three additional police officers without identifying a revenue stream (or streams) through which to pay for them. Almost all of the various suggestions subsequently proposed call for tax increases on local residents; scarcely considered has been an increase in the transient occupancy tax (TOT) paid by visitors staying in Ashland to partake of our diverse cultural and outdoor offerings.

With the above as background, I was quite pleased to learn (via Julie Akins’ article on page A5 of the Oct. 18 Daily Tidings) that city Administrative Services Director Mark Welch has included the TOT as a viable solution for police funding. According to Akins, at its Monday, Oct. 16 study session, “Welch told the council each 1 percent increase would fund an officer plus provide $250,000 for tourism infrastructure.” Left unsaid is that our property and utility taxes have seen regular increases while the TOT has not been increased since 2008.

According to a personal communication from the management analyst for the city of Ashland, the TOT is currently set at 9 oercent, and is anticipated to generate (with a percentage of that revenue restricted to tourism) nearly $3 million for 2017-2018. Yes, $3 million!

Given this fact, readers might jump to the conclusion that the mayor and City Council would be dancing in the streets upon learning of this option. Wrong! I presented almost identical information to the mayor and City Council in written input during the “public comments” portion of its meeting on July 18. The mayor immediately challenged my information and made it most clear to me (through what I can best describe as condescending arrogance) that I did not know what I was talking about. I responded that my information had come directly from city staff. I then got up from the table, gathered what was left of my composure and made a bee-line for the exit.

I truly hope Welch holds sufficient credibility with the City Council that they seriously consider his findings. Given my recent interaction — particularly with the mayor — I don’t expect much.

Emmett P. Fiske

Ashland