January 8, 2013

Linking bed tax, sales tax


MALONE — The promise of higher sales-tax revenue is also spurring support for instituting a bed tax in Franklin County.

Potential income and what to do about waterfront-property owners who rent rooms out to cover taxes will likely be discussed at public hearings this week and next as the county looks at charging a 5 percent fee on all overnight visitors.

Two of the hearings are Thursday. The first is at 5:30 p.m. at the Tupper Lake Village Offices on Lake Street, followed at 7 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall in the Village of Saranac Lake.

The third public hearing is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the fourth-floor Legislative Chambers in the County Courthouse in Malone.


If the county is successful in petitioning the State Legislature for permission to institute the 5 percent occupancy tax, the County Treasurer’s Office would collect the money and enforce the law to make sure all lodging owners participate.

The money would be earmarked for tourism, and an appointed committee would then recommend to the County Legislature how the money should be spent.

A part-time tourism-promotion agent would carry out the projects once approved by legislators.

If tourism numbers climb, officials say, sales-tax figures would also grow.

A committee was formed to create the local law, and a draft was submitted to legislators Dec. 20. Some had read the plan and some had not as of last week, when the subject was mentioned during the legislature’s reorganizational meeting.


Legislator Sue Robideau (R-Brushton) raised questions on the law’s wording and about making the document consistent, which led to a discussion on whether the draft law should be changed and, if so, how significantly.

“I don’t think we should be making changes. We should be making suggestions to change and bring them up at the public hearings and discuss it,” said Legislator Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake).

Board Clerk Gloria Valone reminded the members that if significant changes are made to the local law as presented, the entire process would have to start over again with a revised document and new public hearings set.

And that could delay the early January deadline legislators had given themselves to have a local law in place so, when the State Legislature convenes for its first 2013 session, they could seek the state’s permission to start collecting bed tax.


Vacation rentals led to an exchange about people on Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Chateaugay Lake, Lake Titus and other places who move out of shoreline property for a short time and rent them out.

The draft law states that a bed tax is to be charged for stays of 29 days or less, but any stay longer than that means the room is considered a permanent residence and is not subject to the tax.

Some argued that those who rent out space in their homes are not lodging professionals and should not be subject to a bed tax at all.

Board Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said there were also concerns about south-end bed-and-breakfasts changing their business models to rental bungalows and vacation properties so they would no longer be subject to State Department of Health regulations.

But no matter the questions raised at the public hearings, the bottom line for County Manager Thomas Leitz is to see that a law passes so sales-tax revenue can grow.

“As the guy who does the budget, I don’t care if Franklin County takes a penny for administration (of the bed tax),” he said. “The biggie is the sales-tax dollars. That can leverage six to seven figures in sales tax.”

Email Denise A. Raymo:



The Tourism Office website lists more than 80 lodging sites in Franklin County and splits them into cottages and private rentals; bed and breakfast establishments; and hotels and motels. Resorts and lodges are also listed, but they are repeat entries from the three main categories.

Here is a breakdown of the type of unit, the range of daily room rates, the range of weekly room rates, the proposed 5 percent bed-tax rate, the 4 percent county-sales-tax rate and the daily and weekly range of costs to stay in Franklin County:


Cottage/private rental: $30 to $800 - $750 to $3,600.

Bed tax (5 percent): $1.50 to $40 - $37.50 to $180.

Sales tax (4 percent): $1.20 to $32 - $30 to $144.

Room total: $32.70 to $872 - $817.50 to $3,924.

Bed and breakfast: $55 to $275 - $450 to $1,800.

Bed tax (5 percent): $2.75 to $13.75 - $22.50 to $90.

Sales tax (4 percent): $2.20 to $11 - $18 to $72.

Room total: $59.95 to $299.75 - $490.50 to $1,962.

Hotels and motels: $35 to $260 - $245 to $550.

Bed tax (5 percent): $1.75 to $13 - $12.25 to $27.50.

Sales tax (4 percent): $1.40 to $10.40 - $9.80 to $22.

Room total: $38.15 to $283.40 - $267.05 to $599.50.