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January 11, 2013

Bed-tax idea draws fire

Franklin County lawmakers get an earful from hotel, motel owners

TUPPER LAKE — Lodging owners bashed legislators for not consulting or including them in their plans when considering a bed tax in Franklin County.

Two public hearings Thursday attracted fewer than 20 people to talk about the county’s plan to charge a 5 percent fee on overnight guests.

But those who were present were vocal in their opposition to the idea which the State Legislature and governor must approve before the county can tack on the fee from all owners of vacation-rental properties, bed-and-breakfasts, cottages, condominiums, hotels and motels.

A third hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the fourth-floor legislative chambers in the County Courthouse in Malone.

About 15 people turned out at the Tupper Lake Village Office to express their frustrations.

“Do you want me to go to your business and tell you how to run your business?” said Jay Chojnowski, owner of the Red Top Inn.

He said he called other hotel and motel owners when the bed-tax idea first came up and said only the Holiday Inn Express in Malone was in favor of the new charge on customers.

When told the money would be used to promote tourism countywide, Chojnowski said, “Saranac Lake is already getting money from two counties. You’re stabbing us in the back.”

Robin Doolen, who owns Shaheen’s Motel with her husband, Terry, said Tupper Lake lodgers get little benefit from the existing tourism efforts in the county and now they are being “asked to ask for additional revenue with no benefit.”

She and Margaret Ernenwein, owner of the Park Motel, said they would rather see bed-tax money come back to the communities that generate it so they can decide how to spend it.

Ernenwein said increasing a customer’s bill from 8 percent sales-tax rate to 13 percent with the bed tax added in “is too big a jump. It’s going to stop me from raising my rates,” which she hasn’t done for two years.

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