SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- A law allowing Schenectady County to increase its hotel and motel room occupancy tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent has been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The measure made it to the governor's desk this year after the County Legislature had asked for the increase for three consecutive years. The legislation did not make it past the state Legislature until this year.
The measure is expected to increase the county's room occupancy tax revenue by about $175,000, with the money going to support the county's tourism promotion efforts. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.
County Attorney Chris Gardner confirmed that Cuomo had signed the legislation, which was submitted this year as a "home rule" bill -- meaning the state Legislature defers to the wishes of local government as long as the local state legislators support it. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, and state Sen. George A. Amedore, R-Rotterdam.
"I think it's going to help potentially with more funding for the tourism programs and the arts," Gardner said. "I think it will provide solid funding for those projects, and also take into consideration that we've had significant growth in our hotel and hospitality sector in the last few years."
County leaders began discussing the increase in 2016, based on the opening of the Rivers Casino & Resort and new hotels nearby, and increased efforts by the county to promote Schenectady County as a tourism destination. A county Tourism and Convention Bureau was formed in late 2016, and has been in operation as Discover Schenectady since 2017.
The room tax, by legislation, is totally dedicated to promoting tourism and the arts. With the increase, it is expected to bring in more to $1 million annually. Of the revenue it brings in, $200,000 goes to Proctors to support its arts programs, while $50,000 goes toward a program of small arts and events grants administered by the county, with the balance paying for the work of Discover Schenectady.