The clock is ticking towards the City of Merritt’s deadline to apply for the right to continue collecting a two per cent tax on hotel accommodations; however, the City has yet to reach an agreement with the local hotel association.

Provincial regulations stipulate that in order to apply to have the province collect the tax, the City needs a bylaw requesting the province to levy the tax on its behalf – which Merritt has already passed – as well as the indication of support from at least 51 per cent of the accommodation sector. The application also needs to include a business plan explaining how the funds will be administered.

The tax is intended to assist municipalities with funding tourism marketing programs and projects, and historically the hotel association has had complete control over those funds. However, the renewal has given the City an opportunity to review this arrangement.

While both the City of Merritt and the Merritt Hotel Association seem to agree that there needs to be a committee created to determine how the revenue from the tax will be used, the current contention is centred on which group will have the most weight when it comes to making decisions.

During a committee of the whole meeting, the hotel association proposed a DMO (destination marketing organization) that would include representation from the City and the hotel association as well as other local groups such as the arts council, the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce, the Walk of Stars etc. One of the hotel association’s demands, however, was that the group of hoteliers keep 51 per cent of the votes.

Arguing that the local hotels contribute the majority of funding, the group barely acknowledged the fact that the City contributes to the hoteliers’ businesses by bringing guests into town for various conventions.

The City of Merritt remains fully responsible for the administration of the funds regardless of whether they delegate the funds to a third party such as the hotel association. With this in mind, it is quite reasonable that the city have an equal share of votes on a committee that would determine the use of the funds. Other groups would also contribute to the committee with ideas and with a portion of votes.

A situation where one group has a majority of votes seems unreasonable, except in a government where seats are won in a democratic process.

In any case, unless the two groups are able to reach an agreement soon, Merritt won’t be able to apply for the tax at all, which would only benefit the guests who would have slightly cheaper accommodation.