Motel Closure Cuts into Umatilla's Grant Program

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The city of Umatilla awarded more than $9,000 in grants Tuesday, but the future of the Transient Room Tax Grant program could be in jeopardy.

In May 2010, voters approved the Umatilla City Transient Room Tax Increase, a measure that set a 3.5-percent tax on all stays at hotel, motel or RV parks in the city of Umatilla. Seventy percent of the money collected would go toward promoting tourism; the remaining 30 percent would fund city services.

But the fund was dealt a blow in April with the sudden closure of the Desert River Inn, according to Finance Officer Melissa Ince.

“The fund is fairly healthy, but it certainly isn’t growing because of the closure of Desert River Inn,” Ince said Tuesday. “We’re looking at a significant decrease in hotel tax revenue.”

Darla Huxel museum award
The Umatilla Museum presented Police Chief Darla Huxel with a plaque on Tuesday in appreciation of her work at the museum.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER COLTON
On Tuesday, the Umatilla City Council approved two Transient Room Tax Grant Requests, as recommended by the TRT Committee. The Umatilla Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center will receive $5,750 to purchase a portable stage, and the Umatilla Museum will receive $3,500 for operations.

Ince said about $5,600 remains in the fund after the unanimous approval of the two grants.

In addition to the Transient Room Tax Grant recommendation, the council voted on eight different resolutions dealing with funding during the Tuesday meeting.

Three resolutions affect the 2012-13 fiscal year budget:

• Resolution 08-2013 adopted a supplemental budget of $492,034. The additional revenue, primarily from building inspections and Port of Entry fees, changes the “bottom line” of the budget.
• Resolution 09-2013 outlines where the supplemental budget funding is allocated: $466,034 in the general fund and $26,000 in the refuse fund.
• Resolution 10-2013transfers money within funds to prevent overspending money budgeted in any single fund or department. City Manager Bob Ward said the funding does not change budget totals but moves money within the general, water and sewer funds.

Four resolutions dealt with the 2013-14 budget:

• Resolution 11-2013 adopted the budget approved by the budget committee for the fiscal year 2013-14 in the total sum of $9,989,391.
• Resolution 12-2013 outlines the individual appropriations in each fund. For example, the General Fund total is about $2.25 million. The resolution sets that amount as well as the amount set aside for items such as city administration, municipal court and the police department.
• Resolution 13-2014 levies taxes at the permanent tax rate, 2.9191 per $1,000, and allocates those dollars to the General Fund.
• Resolution 14-2013 authorizes the city to collect state revenue for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The bulk of the city’s budget is funded through state revenue.

The council also used on resolution to correct a bit of “housekeeping.” Last month, the city encouraged senior citizens to sign up for a senior citizen reduction on their water bills; Tuesday, Ward confirmed that discount did not exist for water rates.

Resolution 05-2013 amends city code to include a senior citizen discount.

“I believe a flat 10 percent is a nice gesture for them, and I think it’s important to keep seniors in the community,” he said. “It’s important to make the community somewhere they want to live.”

The resolution gives anyone over the age of 65 a 10-percent discount on water rates at their primary residence. Seniors must turn in an application and provide proof of age.

About 460 seniors live in Umatilla, and Melissa Ince, finance officer, estimated if the maximum the city would lose based on the senior discount is $6,700 – if every household applied.

During the meeting, the Umatilla Museum honored Umatilla Police Chief Darla Huxel for her support of the museum and its mission.

Museum representatives said Huxel has taken on installing gravel, hiring equipment and applying primer to the building, in addition to making monetary donations.