SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- The room occupany tax paid by people staying in Schenectady County hotels and motels will increase from 4 percent to 5 percent on Feb. 1. The money will go toward promoting the county as a visitor destination.
The County Legislature on Tuesday approved a local law putting the increase in place. Late last year, the state Legislature approved and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed "home rule" legislation giving the county the authority to increase the tax. With the increase, the cost of a $150 hotel room in the county would go up about $1.50.
The local law was approved by an 11-1 vote, with Legislator Brian McGarry of Rotterdam -- the Legislature's only Republican -- voting against the increase.
"It seems that taxation encourages behavior, and this seems to run counter to our goal of increasing business in Schenectady County," McGarry said.
Democratic Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, said the increase has been discussed for several years and still leaves the county with a lower room occupancy tax than Albany County or the city of Saratoga Springs. "The rationale for doing this is that the money collected would go toward the promotion of tourism in Schenectady County," he said.
The state Legislature acted on the home rule bill request last year after county leaders had appealed for action in the previous two years without success.
The measure is expected to bring in an additional $175,000, bringing total receipts from the room tax to nearly $1 million.
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.
While some local people may stay in county hotels, it is presumed the majority of hotel guests come from outside the county, whether traveling for business or pleasure.
Of the revenue the tax brings in, $200,000 goes to Proctors to support its arts programs, while $60,000 goes toward an annual program that supports arts activities and special events like Schenectady Summer Night and Glenville's Oktoberfest. The balance pays for the marketing work of Discover Schenectady.