COQUILLE — Coos County's need to fund public safety will require another source of revenue after voters struck down its transient lodging tax ballot measure.
Despite the 10 percent lodging tax expected to raise around $800,000 for public safety, nearly 55 percent of Tuesday's turnout voted against the measure.
While disappointed by the outcome, Commissioner Melissa Cribbins was not surprised the measure failed to gain traction.
"I think it is always difficult to pass a measure like this during an off-election year," Cribbins said. "The voter turnout was very low (45 percent) and sometimes a measure like this needs more explanation. It would have been nice to have a voter's pamphlet to give the voters a little more information about what the tax will be used for and what it can be used to improve things in Coos County."
An interested observer of Tuesday's election, Red Lion General Manager Larry Donnelly urged against voting for the tax, citing a number of issues including the possibility of hurting local business.
"There's a McDonald's mentality where if they can get to cheaper, they're going to go to a cheaper facility or a different area," Donnelly said. "People don't show up with unlimited budgets and if they have to go to a lesser facility to get that servicing, it could have an adverse affect on business.
"Speaking as a hotel guy, it seems we're always discounting, and adding an extra burden to the other side seems out of sorts. If we thought we could have added more, we certainly would have done that."
Prior to Tuesday's election, the county commissioners had said imposing the lodging tax would probably not negatively impact tourism.
Using Tillamook County, which passed a similar tax in 2013, as an example, tourism grew by 16 percent last year.
Additionally, 82 cities and 16 counties also have lodging taxes.
As to its proposed benefits, Donnelly remained unconvinced the measure could solve the county's budget shortfall nor did he have enough information as to how the funds would be spent.
As one of the larger proposed contributors of tax revenue, he also felt too much of the burden for funding public safety was falling on lodging establishments when the service is for everyone.
"This would not solve all of their problems so either they're going to have to find a different source of funding or live with that gap," Donnelly said. "One of my concerns with lodging tax funds is I'm not sure they're being utilized as they could be. I saw we were spending $190,000 on advertising on our community already so this going to be like putting more ads in a magazine nobody reads. If the funds were earmarked for something I knew they were going to, I could certainly get behind it."
Though the measure failed, Cribbins said the commissioners would continue to discuss what they could do as well as the work group, which is scheduled to meet post-election.
"The voters didn't know enough about it or the specifics so it's two legs of the same stool," Cribbins said. "We'll have to show what can you do with this money and what it could look like with the additional funds."
In Curry County, a transient lodging tax ballot measure also failed, 53-47.