April 19, 2013

Bed-tax vote may come soon


MALONE — Franklin County plans to tweak its proposed bed-tax law and may vote on it soon.

Following a sixth public hearing Thursday in Malone, Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said he wants his colleagues to raise specific changes they want to see made in the proposed law so a vote can be taken soon.

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Paul Maroun (R-Tupper Lake) already announced he will not support it, saying his motel and hotel owners don’t want it and that the language is flawed.

But if approved, he’d like one third of the revenue split among the chambers of commerce in Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake and the rest for efforts in the rest of the county.

Fewer than 10 people turned out to speak about the law, which, if approved by the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would allow the collection of up to 5 percent for an occupancy tax on overnight guests.

Two lodging owners from Tupper Lake who spoke last week again raised their objections, saying the county can’t generate millions in revenue like Essex County brings in because it has 2,300 rooms compared to 300 to 350 here.

“We need money for new attractions and new events or state and federal projects,” said Jay Chojnowski, owner of the Red Top Inn.

“That’s what brings money to Tupper Lake. Do we need this (bed tax) money? Probably yes. But not now.”

He said his guests can’t afford to pay more.

“I don’t get the top-of-the-line customers,” he said. “Most ask what the tax is. I’m at the bottom of the ladder. I’m not fighting for my money — I’m fighting for my customers’.”

Gil Paddock, who has more than 30 years experience in camping, said the fee is borne by visitors, guests who know “you can’t go anywhere without paying a bed tax, so why should Franklin County be the exception?

“Tourism is the only thing Franklin County has.”

The county estimates it could generate $300,000 to $400,000 a year in bed tax and use it for tourism instead of funding its promotion by property-tax dollars.

How it would be spent would be decided according to recommendations from a tourism-advisory committee legislators created but have not yet filled.

Jones said decisions on who serves will be made soon so the committee can begin its work whether the bed tax is approved in Albany or not.

Email Denise A.