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Lodging ‘tax’, volunteers, council structure among strategic planning ideas

By Ross Lees
A lodging ‘tax’ for tourists, affordable housing and retaining volunteers were among topics discussed Monday as Prince Edward County council held its first strategic planning session.
Mayor Peter Mertens called the process an important one as there are nine new councillors and three new staff members since the last strategic planning session in 2007.
Mertens said the establishing of a strategic plan develops a direction for the new council, creates agreement on the current status, updates the 2007 strategic plan.
Strategic planning, he said, is a process to establish priorities on what council  would accomplish in the future. It forces them to make choices on what they will do or will not do as the term progresses, pulls the entire organization together around a single game plan for execution, and gives a broad outline of where resources will get allocated.
“A good strategic plan is flexible to allow and facilitate change,” Mertens noted.
Council quickly established the main supporting objectives of their term to be:
Increase stable, manageable year-round employment opportunities
Improve land, water and air quality
Manage growth and its impacts
Preserve and promote the County’s arts, culture, identity and quality of life
Facilitate quality recreational opportunities for people of all ages and physical abilities
Provide an efficient, effective and responsive municipal government
In discussing their objectives, council members presented concepts and ideas to create desired outcomes of their objectives – some more attainable than others.
Councillor Barb Proctor raised the issue of what was termed in some of their documents as a “diminishing  volunteer base,” – terminology she took issue with. From the subsequent debate and information sharing, it was decided this council would have as one of its strategic actions, an effort to encourage growth, retention and support of its volunteer base.
Councillor Keith MacDonald is concerned the County’s infrastructure comes under assault each year during the tourist season when the population of the County increases dramatically. He suggested establishling a lodging tax for tourists. For every tourist registered at a hotel, motel, campground or trailer park, would pay a small ‘tax’ added to their bill.
Jamie Forrester wants to see more measurable results forthcoming from the Economic Development Office.
Robert Quaiff made sure the quality of life issue in the County included better affordable housing and Alec Lunn proposed looking at better transportation to work areas.
Also presented:
A review of the structure and organization of council; protection of built heritage; increased waste diversion and more “positive press” articles on what the County is doing.
In closing the meeting, Mertens suggested a more structured strategic planning opportunity. When council has established consensus on its vision for a strategic plan, the plan is to be taken to the public.
For now, the issues and suggestions made at the meeting Monday will be collated and summarized for the next strategic planning session.

Strategic Plan 2007:

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  1. Marc Keelan-Bishop says:

    Killashandra: I am a tax payer, both property and business, and I believe that it’s important that the county make the most of it’s tourism assets, including the harbour. Whether or not there is political will is another question all together. As for not leaving my last name, it was an oversight, nothing more.

  2. Killashandra Ree says:

    In many of the US states, a visitor tax is added on to hotel rooms and maybe some attractions. The County cannot collect sales taxes so the only route would be to add a special property tax on hotels, RV & Trailer parks, Marinas and B&Bs. Then the owners would recoup the tax by charging their customers more. We would be less competitive and unless visitors perceived a special value that they believed was worth the extra cost, they will go elsewhere to stretch their vacation dollar. So I give the idea a thumbs down, but at least Keith is looking to try new things.

    Beth, Ken & Marc, the rest of us are not afraid to state our full names and we refrain from name calling.

    Marc, if you were a tax payer you wouldn’t find it so easy to suggest that someone take lots more of your hard earned dollars to attract a few more boaters to Picton. The county has (had?) agreements with the property owners at the end of the harbour to allow pedestrians on the board walks. There has never been an attempt to join the boardwalks to allow a stroll from end-to-end. It was suggested at one of the pre-election meetings that the agreements had been allowed to expire. We have at least one councillor who has been on council for several years and lives in the harbour – ask them why the county did not do more with those agreements. Is that councillor really willing to have joe public strolling by their windows morning, noon and night and sit fishing outside their back door? Was the election hype about the harbour, just that, hype to get votes?

  3. Marc says:

    Doris: Of course the taxpayers should pay to restore the waterfront. We spend money to make money, and this county makes plenty of money of of tourism. Expanding our tourism by properly exploiting the things we have is just plain old good business. Letting our assets rot away instead of making them the best they can be is cutting our nose to spite our face.

  4. Beth G says:

    I think as intelligent people, we are aware that a ‘tax’ on tourist will not happen. Is there additional strain on the infrastructure during tourist season, absolutely. However, with the additional draw on County Resources during the tourist season, comes jobs, a growth in economy and additional revenue for a large portion of the population. I personally feel that work should continue to be placed in a effort to expand the tourism to include the entire year.

  5. Doris Lane says:

    Instead of the council trying to find ways to tax people they should cut their spending on unnecessary things and while they are at it not give away large grants to organizations that should learn to budget the money that they have better.
    Where does the Regent Foundation think the county is going to get $100,000 to give to them.
    The county should have an internal audit by an impartial party and make it public so that we all can see the mess that things are in.

  6. Chris Keen says:

    Ken – let’s be civil here. I agree, a tourist tax would be a ridiculous effort to shore up County finances. Keith MacDonald’s feeling that we are under “assault” from tourists is seriously short sighted – tourism is what’s keeping the County alive while we try to figure out what else can be done on a year round basis to improve the economic environment here.

  7. Ken says:

    Yeah, a tax for tourists. Any other bright ideas on how to cut our throats?? Makes me ponder… Does Keith have a hole in his head, or his head in a hole???

  8. Doris Lane says:

    I agree with Jamie Forester that we should see more measurable results coming forth from the EDO/

    Keith come on tax the tourists for destroying the roads when you were in favour of putting up turbines in the county. Do you know what that construction would do to county roads.

    Barb Proctor likes volunteers maybe we should have more volunteer jobs in the county council so we do not have to pay high wages for people to do some of the jobs

    I think in that strategic plan they were reviewing they are still talking about restoring the water front. With whos money–not the tax payer I hope and anyway that ship has sailed

  9. Richard Barrett says:

    I do not believe that a lodging tax is a good idea at all.

  10. Dayton Johnson says:

    LODGING TAX FOR TOURIST!! Good Luck with that one Keith! Got a few questions for ya on this one,,Short of putting toll gates at all entry points of the County ,how do you propose this TAX will be collected? Would you base the rate on how long the “Tourist” is visiting our community?..How many operators are interested in collecting yet another TAX? Can i bill the County for acting as their TAX collector?
    Ok, hire some County paid tax collectors to visit all of these establishments…yuh huh!!that sounds like a real money maker!!! Well,, then you have the Provincial Parks to explain this one to. Did you have any guidelines in mind when you dreamt this one up?

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