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November 30, 2012

Essex County bed-tax hike advances

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County lawmakers now want to double the proposed increase in the county’s occupancy tax.

What started last week as a preliminary request to the State Legislature for a 1 percent hike in the county’s present 3 percent bed tax is now up to 2 percent.

That would make the Essex County lodging tax 5 percent, the same amount Franklin County is trying to set to establish a bed tax.

Clinton County already has a 3 percent occupancy tax.

DEDICATED FUND

The County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means Committee passed the 2 percent increase request this week, 15-2, with Supervisors Roby Politi (R-North Elba) and Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) opposed. Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) was absent.

Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said he wanted to amend the resolution asking for an increase to double the request.

“That would give us a total of 5 percent for an occupancy tax. Some businesses may not think it’s a good idea. I’d like to see this go into a dedicated fund (for tourism).”

Essex County’s 3 percent bed tax makes about $1.5 million a year, but 95 percent of that is encumbered to the Lake Placid-Essex County Visitors Bureau, now called Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. The county gets the other 5 percent for administration.

All of the increase, expected to generate $1 million to $1.2 million annually, would go into county coffers for distribution to tourism-related enterprises, Preston said.

“It (the new tax money) would specifically be dedicated to tourism,” he said. “It would not go into the general fund.”

FISH HATCHERY

The additional bed-tax funds would be used in four ways, Preston said.

“Twenty-five percent is for the (County) Fish Hatchery. It generates tourism. This would pay for it.”

The fish stocked by the Crown Point-based hatchery bring thousands of anglers to the county every year for sport tourism, according to a study.

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