County initiates public process for transient room tax increase
by Charli Engelhorn
staff writer
Mar 22, 2012 | 1148 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An increase in the transient room tax (TRT) may be in store in 2013 if public comments and a vote from the Grand County Council support the change. This week, council members approved initiating the public hearing process to consider increasing the TRT from its current 3 percent to the maximum allowed rate of 4.25 percent.

The increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2013, officials said. However, council chairman Gene Ciarus and council member Jim Nyland both voted against beginning the process.

In documents prepared by council member Chris Baird, he said the idea behind the TRT increase is to increase county revenues and help ease the burden on the county’s general fund while avoiding the need to increase property taxes. Property taxes are the main funding stream for the county’s general fund. Grand County has two main sources of revenue in addition to property taxes: payments in lieu of taxes, which are monies paid by the state and federal governments for non-taxable land in the county, and TRT.

Baird noted that Grand County is responsible for providing services to its residents and to the millions of tourists who visit each year. Only one-third of the TRT money collected is allowed to be allocated to funding these services, such as museums, emergency medical services, law enforcement, recreation trails and facilities, and search and rescue. If that revenue, and state and federal monies, cannot cover the cost of those services, the county’s general fund may be “detrimentally drawn down,” according to Baird.

“Should Grand County fail to appropriate a fair TRT revenue stream toward the eligible accounts, those accounts will draw on the general fund and ultimately leverage the need for a property tax increase,” Baird wrote. “Such a[n]… increase would be onerous on a rural population whose taxable values and income are relatively insufficient to support the demand of services.”

Less than 5 percent of the property in Grand County is private and taxable.

Increasing the TRT would create 1.25 percent of additional revenue the county could put toward many of these services and free up monies in the general fund for other county needs, such as capital improvements, equipment, and overall department operations, according to Baird.

Although council member Audrey Graham commended Baird on his “dogged on the ground” work to recognize and create solutions for the Grand County community, Ciarus said he voted against the action because he is “inherently against increasing taxes.”

Now that the council has approved initiating the public process, the Moab Area Travel Council will be notified, and a notice of the public hearing must be published twice before a hearing is allowed.

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