Chamber to sponsor bed tax forum today

What is all this talk about a Kenai Peninsula Borough bed tax? A forum tonight, sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, will help answer that question for chamber members and the public. The forum will be held at the Best Western Bidarka Inn at 6:30 p.m.

“The reason for the meeting is so we can gauge our members’ desires and feelings about the bed tax and then we may decide to come out with a statement,” said Jim Lavrakas, executive director of the chamber and visitor center.

Fifteen minutes will be allowed to two speakers supporting the tax and another 15 minutes for comments from two speakers opposing the tax.

Speaking in favor of the tax are Bill Smith, who represents Homer on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, and Shanon Hamrick of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. Speaking in opposition to the tax will be Mako Haggerty, who represents the southern Kenai Peninsula on the assembly, and Mike Warburton, owner of Ocean Shores Motel. 

“The two sides of government were what we were looking for,” said Lavrakas. “Not just the business side, but also the government side so people could understand what the borough is thinking on creating new revenue.”

A question-and-answer session will follow the comments supporting and opposing the tax.

While the forum is being offered to help educate chamber members about the ordinance, Lavrakas was clear that “the public is invited.” 

Earlier this month, Smith sponsored and introduced Ordinance 2014-25, which seeks to establish the 4 percent area-wide transient accommodations tax, commonly known as a “bed tax,” with exemptions within cities that levy a similar tax. The ordinance is scheduled for public hearings at the assembly’s July 1 and July 22 meetings. If passed by the assembly, borough voters will have the final say in the October general election.

At Monday’s Homer City Council meeting, Hamrick explained how the tax, paid by people staying in peninsula accommodations, would generate $2.4 million.

“Revenue from the bed tax would replace the borough’s current investment in marketing, immediately returning $300,000 to the general fund and generating more than $265,000 on top of that amount for schools, for a give-back of more than half a million dollars to the borough,” Hamrick told the council. 

From the Homer business community, Mike Dye, Tom Stroozas, Warburton and Adrienne Sweeney spoke against the 4 percent tax at Monday’s city council meeting.

“It doesn’t make sense that we’re going to pass this tax on to what some people say will be Lower 48 people when most of the business that stays with me at the Driftwood Inn is Alaskans and I’m not comfortable with gouging my valued guests,” said Sweeney.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at 

Bed Tax Forum

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Best Western Bidarka Inn.

Sponsored by the Homer Chamber