Visit Bend leaders recently proposed a 2 percent increase in transient room taxes. In a couple of statements made by proponents of the increase, this comment was made: “This tax will not be paid for by local residents — it will be paid for by people coming from out-of-town.” Setting aside the numerous unintended consequences of this tax increase — for instance those who at the end of their stay see the full price and say “not again” — the statement that local residents will not pay for this tax is not completely accurate.
Local residents pay for infrastructure such as streets, water, sewer, etc., that benefit the people we bring to Bend. It could even be argued that their use reduces the lifespan of such infrastructure — roads being the first to enter that thought. If the amount of money brought to town that contributes to infrastructure cost and maintenance was equal to visitors’ use, there would not be an issue.
Between 2001 and 2007, I collected data from all customers to whom we provided service at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. On average, 20 percent of our customers did not reside or pay taxes in Deschutes County. Our transient room tax revenue was less than 10 percent of our budget and the difference came from local taxpayers.
I would recommend that in the future, advertising to sell this increase to the voters not include the statement “this tax will not be paid for by local residents.”