It’s time for County Council to vote on tax

Friday, April 28, 2017

There were sighs all around the room Monday afternoon when the Greene County Council made the decision not to vote on the proposed Innkeeper’s Tax.

Instead, per the request of council president Jerry Frye, the council will discuss the proposed 5 percent Innkeeper’s Tax once again May 14 and the plan is to take a vote June 5.

The discussion about potentially implementing an Innkeeper’s Tax has sparked a lot of excellent conversation, from those for and against. But it’s time for the conversation to be over and make a decision. This isn’t a new conversation. It has been going on for years.

In fact, Greene County Economic Development Director Brianne Jerrels said she brought this proposal before the council in October 2015. Information was presented, discussions took place, and no decisions were made. Aside from one current councilman, newcomer Jonas Uland, this proposal has been on the table for 18 months for members to review.

In the last few months, a local innkeeper, Mark Bartlow, has attended meetings and presented his view against the tax. Between the opponents and the proponents to the tax, a lot of great questions have been asked and answered.

While the plan to present the ordinance for the tax proposal at the March 27 meeting was rescheduled due to lack of a quorum, the council had the current ordinance in hand at the end of March. The council met again on April 10, which included more than an hour and a half of excellent conversation, rehashing of important information, and even some new information.

The council then had another 14 days to consider the information, research and prepare themselves for the vote. They had time to ask questions and give a final look into the information on their own time. Many of the people who had dedicated hours upon hours of their own time came to the meeting Monday expecting answers. But, those answers were postponed.

Councilman Gregg Roudebush asked an important question: “Everybody has had their say. How long are we going to chew on this?”

Apparently, 18 months isn’t long enough.

Councilman Mike Riggleman was adamant the council needs to make a decision -- one way or the other -- because if the tax is passed, a new board will have to be devised and a plan put in place before the tax is implemented at the first of the year.

Kudos to Riggleman for putting his foot down while also complying with other council members’ concerns about needing more time.

“We’ve got two months to put it together. I think that’s a lot of time,” Riggleman said.

Although, Frye’s reaction to his suggestion was one that surprised us.

“Two months? You have less to do than I do if you can do that all in two months,” Frye said.

Taking the time to consider a big change, which will affect so many people, is important. But there is a time for talking and there is a time for action. It is tempting to want to play devil’s advocate and not hurt the feelings of one side or the other, but the job of our county leaders is to act in the best interest of our county.

This need for action does not stop at our county level. We’ve seen a need for action put off at the state and national levels. Our leaders need to lead. We need you to make the decisions, which will drive us into a successful future, filled with hope for our children and the generations after.