The local chamber of commerce took no official position Wednesday on a proposal by a county supervisor to introduce the first-ever hotel room occupancy tax in Fulton County.
However, Wally Hart, president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber supports the so-called bed tax concept, provided revenues are dedicated solely for tourism promotion and programs.
“We are interested in a bed tax if it means secured funding for what we intend to do, which is support tourism and tourism programs. Also, as a membership organization, we have to protect the interests of our members,” Hart said.
Under a bed tax, the county would place a surcharge on rentals of hotel and motel rooms. Some counties also place the surcharge on campsite rentals. The tax generally runs about 4 percent on the cost of the rental. It falls mainly on visitors to a community and as such is considered a user fee. Fulton County has 300 hotel beds.
Hart said the chamber would not support a bed tax if the county Board of Supervisors used the money for general government operations. “If we support a bed tax, we want to make sure it is not used for other purposes,” he said.
Johnstown Ward 3 Supervisor John Callery, who raised the idea at Monday’s supervisors’ meeting, said he could not say the board would dedicate bed tax revenues for tourism. “I can’t speak to that right now. I am one of 20 supervisors. Everyone will have input,” he said. “Until we discuss that, that is up in the air yet. If not all of it, I would like to lock in a great amount of it for tourism,” he said.
Callery said the board would decide on the bed tax percentage, and that percentage would determine the amount raised annually. The state Legislature would have to approve of the creation of a bed tax in Fulton County.
The chamber’s interest in the bed tax is driven by the possible loss of county support for tourism promotion. The chamber is slated to receive $72,000 in the 2012 county budget, which is used to support the salary of the chamber’s tourism director, the Visitors’ Center in Vail Mills and various community events. The amount is in danger of elimination, just like larger budget items such as the Sheriff’s Department’s road patrol, the Office for Aging and the Planning Department, as supervisors seek to trim a proposed 16 percent increase in the property tax levy to meet the state’s property tax increase cap, which in Fulton County’s case would be 3.8 percent.
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Categories: Schenectady County