December 5, 2012

Bed-tax advisory committee recommended


MALONE — The committee studying a bed tax in Franklin County says another panel should be formed now to begin deciding how, if the state gives the OK for the 5 percent fee, the new tax money will be spent.

As final details are settled for the draft local law, the group recommends keeping the tourism-marketing momentum going by forming a committee to look at existing activities and generate additional related projects to generate economic development and job creation.

Members of this new committee would represent different facets of the business and tourism industry and determine how best to spend bed-tax money.

At least two of the seven committee members would be from the south end of the county.

Two seats on the tourism-advisory committee would be represented by owners of accommodations, and there would be one representative each from a local attraction, recreation, retail/restaurant and camping.

The final slot would be a person representing vacation-rental owners, cottages, bed-and-breakfasts and condominiums even though the bed-tax committee acknowledges that enforcement of bed-tax collection from those places would be difficult.

Lodging owner Ernest Holmeyer of Lake Clear said such places should still be included in the law, but there needs to be an educational component to show the owners that being part of the marketing and promotion of the county can be a benefit to them.

He said the advisory committee should get going now and bring in Cornell Cooperative Extension, St. Lawrence County-based fishing-promotion group FISHCAP and others interested in promoting tourism-related events in Franklin County “so when the bed tax comes to fruition, we’re ready to go.”

“We have to muscle up and be more proactive,” Holmeyer said.

Building an advisory framework that includes the Industrial Development Agency is also wise since it can access development-loan or technical-assistance programs, he said.

That means, if all goes as hoped, more rooms could be built for guests to use that would generate more bed-tax and sales-tax revenue in the county.

The advisory committee would be expected to take several months to familiarize itself with tourism initiatives already in place, review new ideas and recommend to the County Legislature what projects should be pursued.

If legislators approve the recommendations, the committee would turn the work over to Fawn Tatro, the county’s part-time tourism director, who also works part time for the IDA and the District Attorney’s Office.

Email Denise A. Raymo: