Council revisits TOT funds

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KEIZERTIMES/File photo

KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

A full meal was asked for.

Instead, there might be enough for cookies and coffee.

Maybe.

A request for $3,378 in Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) money was asked for at the Jan. 21 Keizer City Council meeting. The request was granted at Monday’s meeting – but for only $500.

JoAnne Beilke had requested a grant for $3,378 on behalf of the Keizer Heritage Foundation to help cover costs at the April 6 Volunteer Recognition Banquet at the Keizer Heritage Center.

“We thought it would be great to honor everyone who works at the Keizer Heritage Center,” Beilke said at the time. “It’s quite an economic impact.”

Beilke said the Keizer Art Association draws visitors from all over Oregon and the region, including the Art Gallery bringing in more than 4,500 people a year. The Keizer Community Library is staffed by volunteers and is open seven days a week, 36 hours total. The library currently has 537 card holders and attracts nearly 8,000 visitors a year.

The TOT money comes from room taxes at the Renaissance Inn, Keizer’s only hotel. When the hotel went into bankruptcy last year and was subsequently bought by new owners, no TOT money was coming into the city coffers for a while.

Susan Gahlsdorf, finance director for the city, gave an update on TOT funds Monday. That correlated with Christine Dieker, executive director of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, reiterating chamber’s requests for those funds.

When councilors discussed the TOT funding last year, requests for the funds were prioritized. Funding new holiday lights was at the top of the list, followed by overtime for emergency responders helping out during the Festival of Lights holiday parade.

“We received about $16,700 for the first quarter TOT funding,” Gahlsdorf said. “We got a call late Friday that $9,400 more is coming. So we have about $26,000 coming.”

After discussion of chamber support through TOT funds, councilors returned to the request from KHF.

“I find the Keizer Heritage Foundation is doing great things,” council president Joe Egli said. “But this is a pretty big number in terms of what we give. We just had the First Citizen banquet in this building. We didn’t give any money for that. It concerns me we gave them a $900 room for $500, yet we’re giving $3,400 for this? It’s money to great people, a great cause. But that’s quite a bit of money. Can we do something else?”

Councilor Kim Freeman also had questions and referred to her experience while on the Volunteer Coordinating Committee.

“I agree, they deserve the recognition,” Freeman said. “At the city, we have $200 in our budget to recognize our volunteers. They get cookies and a certificate. In the past we tried doing a big celebration but people didn’t attend so it was money not well spent. We appreciate our volunteers, but we have to be good stewards to all in the city.”

Mayor Lore Christopher suggested allocating $1,000 instead of the requested amount.

“That may mean cookies and coffee, but this will allow you to move forward,” Christopher said.

A motion to allocate $1,000 was made but failed by a 5-2 margin, with only Dennis Koho and Egli in favor.

Koho then made a new motion to allocate $500. That motion was approved unanimously.

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