Weighing special requests for funding — as we described in today’s other editorial — isn’t the only budget challenge Deschutes County commissioners face. The county has a surplus of some $9.2 million in its tourism dollars. What should it do with the money?
This is money from transient room taxes. The tax is paid by people staying overnight in lodging in the county’s unincorporated areas.
For the last several years, the county has underestimated how much that would bring in. The surplus or technically “unallocated” money is money left over after the county fulfills its commitments to the Central Oregon Visitors Association, the Sheriff’s Office and the county’s environmental health efforts.
The county can’t just spend the surplus however it likes. Just how such tourism money can be spent has been an ongoing battle in Oregon. Basically the rules have been that it has to be related in some way to tourism or the additional burdens tourism puts on the community. The county might consider using it for a big ticket item — courthouse expansion. It could give more to the Sheriff’s Office to reduce the need to raise tax rates. It could keep some in reserves, among other options. If you have an opinion, let the commissioners know. You can email them at email@example.com.