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Prineville's transient room tax issue surfaces again

A room tax hike was approved a year ago, but that rate hike sunsets on June 30 so the city is once again looking into it
Once again, the question of how much the local hotel/motel room tax should be for Prineville is coming before the city council.
   A year ago, the council voted to increase the local room tax two percent, from seven to nine percent. The increase would be used, it was decided at that time, to pay for two full-time Emergency Medical Technicians.
   When that was being discussed, not everyone believed it was the right thing to do. One motel owner complained about the need to reprogram the motel's computers to include the rate hike. And then there was the question of how to deal with people who had been given a price quote based on the old tax rate.
   Another motel owner commented on what the increase could mean to the traveling public. At that time, the owner told the council that the room tax in Madras was six percent; the rate for Bend and Redmond was seven percent. Bumping the local rate to nine percent would more than likely hurt the local motel business, the council was warned.
   The proposed use for the increase, additional EMT's, then-Mayor Scott Cooper said, was a need that would benefit residents. When the proposal to annex the city into the rural fire district was placed before the voters, the need for that funding would be taken out of the city's hands. Why not, he asked then, sunset the tax increase at that time?
   When the final vote was taken, the motion was for the tax to take effect on Aug. 1, 2000, and sunset as of June 30, 2001.
   Last week, City Manager Henry Hartley reminded the council of that fact. Hartley told the council he believed Madras has increased their room tax to 10 percent and most others are at nine percent now. He believed Redmond's room tax is now 10 percent.
   A quick phone call around the area shows that little has changed in the past year. Bend's room tax, according to the Bend Chamber of Commerce, is still at eight percent, Redmond's is 7.5 percent. Although the tax in Madras is six percent, but reportedly city officials in that community is considering raising it to nine percent.
   The question is slated to come before the Prineville leaders at their next meeting, on June 26.