Essex County lawmakers want to try increasing the occupancy-tax rate to make more money for tourism-related activities.
The tax is now at 3 percent, and raising it to 4 percent would enable them to fund a wider variety of items, County Manager Daniel Palmer said recently.
“I think that would help our budget immensely. Ultimately, some of these things that we’re paying for on the general fund probably should be paid for out of the tourist-attraction market (budget).”
The state legislative approval for the 3 percent tax encumbers 95 percent of it to the Essex County-Lake Placid Visitors Bureau, also known as the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
The extra 1 percent would be put under the county’s control, Essex County Treasurer Michael Diskin said, so the law would have to be changed.
The 3 percent occupancy tax generates more than $1.5 million a year that is used to promote tourism in the county. He said an additional 1 percent would bring in at least $500,000 more.
Collection of the current tax has been rising, Diskin said.
“Occupancy tax was again up last month by a small amount. It was up $9,723, which is actually 7.5 percent over last year, and for the year, we’re now about $49,000 over last year.”
At budget time every year, the County Board of Supervisors debates whether to continue paying for the County Fish Hatchery in Crown Point and the county’s CHAMP bus system.
“It makes perfect sense that we add a percent and fund that fish hatchery and (public) transportation, and I’m sure that we could sit down and come up with other tourist-related items,” Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said.
Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said other counties use their bed tax for more than just promotion and advertising. Clinton County has a 4 percent occupancy tax now, while Franklin County is debating whether to ask the state for approval to collect a 5 percent tax.
“It’s absolutely something we need to pursue,” Scozzafava said. “Let’s see if we can increase the bed tax by another 1 percent.”
The County Finance Committee OK’d seeking the extra 1 percent by unanimous vote. It will have a preliminary vote Tuesday and final vote at the board’s Dec. 4 regular session.
“I’m in support of it,” Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said.
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