Hood River residents think voters will shoot down county sales tax

Hood River County residents pack into the county's board of commissioners meeting Monday to discuss a two-percent countywide sales tax. (KATU Photo)

A potential sales tax in Hood River brought a large crowd to the county's board of commissioners meeting Monday. At stake is a two percent countywide sales tax, the first in the state.

The county is facing a $1.6 million budget shortfall. County Chair Ron Rivers said it's limited and cannot raise property taxes above 3 percent.

"I just want to state that this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard come out of Hood River County," said Lauren Ales during public testimony at Monday's meeting.

The large crowd almost couldn't fit inside the meeting room. People held signs and wore stickers that read "No Sales Tax."

Hood River County is attempting to cash in on tourists who spend money at shops and restaurants in the Gorge.

Local business owners fear it would turn customers away.

"The sales tax now becomes a deterrent for people who come and visit businesses like mine," said Caroline Park, the co-owner of Thunder Island Brewing Company.

Most speakers said they did not agree with the proposal.

"Put it on the ballot or not, it's going to fail, then what are you going to do?" asked Bart Vervloet.

Asked how many supported the measure, about three people raised their hands.

"If we don't do this, what are we going to do?" said Kate McBride, a member of the Hood River City Council.

County leaders said cuts would have to be made to county services like the sheriff's office and parks.

"I like to have my roads in the county plowed and paved. I like to have the sheriff on duty and his deputies there when I need them," McBride told KATU News.

The decision of a sales tax will ultimately fall on voters, but the Board of Commissioners would first have to vote to put it on the ballot.

A second public meeting is planned Feb. 20. County leaders said they would hold it in a larger space to accommodate a large crowd.

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