The Hillsboro City Council took the first step toward enacting the city's first tax on local hotels on Wednesday evening with widespread support from various stakeholders.
The council approved the first reading of a Hillsboro Transient Lodging Tax, which would add a 3 percent tax onto the current county and state taxes on overnight stays in Hillsboro.
The tax would be active for 10 years, and would bring in an average of $1.8 million per year according to a staff report. According to state law, 70 percent of the funds must be used for tourism purposes — in Hillsboro's case, helping the county to build an events center at the Washington County fairgrounds.
The events center will include an amphitheater, conference rooms and other amenities.
If approved, hoteliers would be notified of new taxes on July 19, and the tax would become effective Aug. 17.
Andy Duyck, chairman of the Washington County Commission, told the council that the county changed the rules to help cities enact city-specific lodging taxes. In the past, any city enacting a local tax would lose some of the money provided by the county's current lodging tax.
"The board sought to change that so cities can enact their own; cities have their own needs," Duyck told the council.
Beaverton passed a local lodging tax, which went into effect last year.
Greg Astley, Director of Government Affairs with the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association said the tax drew support of local hoteliers, which will benefit from improvements funded by additional tax revenue. Astley lauded Hillsboro City Manager Michael Brown for his work to include local hotels in the conversation about new taxes, but urged the city to collect the taxes from bed and breakfasts and short-term rentals like Airbnb.
Astley said, following Beaverton's passage of a four percent tax, hotel revenue and demand for hotel rooms decreased.
"Three percent seems like a reasonable amount," Astley said.
Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Director Deanna Palm told the council of the chamber's support for the tax, which would provide something she said the county has sorely needed.
"Washington County has long been lacking adequate conference facilities to hold more than 1,000 attendees," she said.
A large conference facility — the current expo hall design is 40,000 square feet — could draw attendees from more than 50 miles away, Palm said. Being at the center of Hillsboro would be a major benefit to surrounding community, she said.
Michaela Canete, a 2017 graduate of Hillsboro's Century High School and the 2017 Rose Festival Queen, spoke to the council about her experiences with the Rose Festival.
Canete said she plans to attend Oregon State University and focus on biomedical research, but she has an interest in local government. She'll be traveling around the state to keep up with her duties as queen, and will be making a trip to Taiwan — Portland's sister city — in February.
Canete is the first queen from Hillsboro and the first queen from the western Metro area. The Rose Festival expanded to include non-Portland schools in 2009.
The meeting was held at Hillsboro Public Library's Brookwood branch, due to a Washington County meeting at the Hillsboro Civic Center. The council participated in a work session on parks maintenance prior to the meeting.
The council approved construction contracts for street construction projects on Southeast Cedar Street and at Northwest 231st Ave. and Northeast Cherry Drive. The two projects combine for more than $8.58 million.
The council also approved second readings for two annexation and zone change ordinances, and approved grant funding for William Temple House, which provides counseling for some mental health issues and addictions, social services and pastoral care. The project is hosted by All Saints Episcopal Church in Hillsboro, and is the fourth William Temple House location around the Portland area.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, at the Hillsboro Civic Center.