ELIZABETHTOWN — Lobbying by local innkeepers got Essex County’s proposed occupancy-tax increase tabled.
Just before they voted at a recent meeting to put the request on hold, many members of the County Board of Supervisors said they’d received calls and visits from lodging owners in their towns, apparently as part of a coordinated effort to sink the increase.
County lawmakers had planned to ask the State Legislature for a 2 percent hike in the county’s existing 3 percent bed tax. They now say the request will be revised with input from lodging operators and resubmitted to the Board of Supervisors for a vote by early 2013.
The extra money, estimated at $1 million to $1.2 million annually, would have been used for sports tourism, visitor transportation and winter shoulder-season promotion.
CONCERN OVER IMPACT
Fred Balzak, co-owner of the Book & Blanket Bed and Breakfast in Jay, addressed supervisors on behalf of the lodging owners.
“The (original) bed tax was done over the objections of many people in the lodging industry. Ask, is this a good thing for Essex County?”
Balzac said his B&B has just three rooms, charging $75 to $105 a night, and his guests would be impacted by an increase.
“That’s just going to add to the cost for people (tourists) at the lower end. Have you talked to the lodging owners in your towns? Ask what impact this may have on them.”
Balzac wanted the increase request tabled for a month or just placed on $150-plus premium rooms.
DIVISION OF MONEY
The new tax money would be used according to this formula: 25 percent for a tourism-development-product fund, 25 percent for operation of the County Fish Hatchery in Crown Point, 4 percent for visitor transportation and 46 percent for marketing the winter off-season in the county.
“The Fish Hatchery is a good thing,” Balzac said. “(But) I’m not sure if the Fish Hatchery is the best place for it to go. The Lake Placid Visitors Bureau doesn’t really help us in Jay. I’m not sure if the money should go to them.”