MALONE - Franklin County legislators like the bed tax plan that was put together by a committee of lodging operators.
Committee member Ernest Hohmeyer, owner and operator of Lake Clear Lodge, presented to the county board Thursday the Bed Tax Committee's proposal to institute a 5 percent tax on stays in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, or vacation rentals.
Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, said the committee did a good job with their work. He said he has some questions, but he likes the idea of instituting a bed tax, the money generated from which would be used to promote tourism to the county.
"I have no problem with the general theory of it," Maroun said. "It doesn't cost anybody in Tupper Lake or in Franklin County any money."
He is concerned with the committee's decision to include all vacation rentals less than 30 days in the stays eligible for the tax. He said many locals rent out their homes for a week or two in the summer, and having them pay such a tax would be difficult.
"It's going to be a mess," he said.
He noted that committee members have found counties where it works, though, so he's interested in looking into it more.
One idea Maroun had to help make that portion of the law work is to institute the tax on real-estate agents who broker vacation rental deals, rather than the actual homeowners.
"We'll look at it," Maroun said. "It's not set in stone."
Legislator Tim Burpoe, D-Saranac Lake, was one of the legislators who worked with the committee to develop the law, but he didn't vote on the major decisions.
He said the board plans at its Dec. 20 meeting to schedule hearings on the bed tax in Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. The hearings will probably happen around the second week in January, he said.
"Not only is that a responsibility of the local law, but the committee really wanted to have more public input," Burpoe said.
The committee was pushing to have a tax ready to go for Jan. 1 so it had a better chance of getting through the state Legislature, but Burpoe said Maroun's contacts in the state told him it would be OK if it was in by the end of January.
If the tax gets to the state by then, though, it's still unknown whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign any new taxes. In the past years of his administration, he has refused to approve any.
"Personally, I think there's such a thing as home rule," Burpoe said.
He noted that for most counties in the state, nine unfunded state mandates make up 90 percent of their tax levy, which prompted the 9 for 90 campaign being promoted by the New York State Association of Counties. But in Franklin County, Burpoe said, it's more like 9 for 150 percent of the tax levy.
In that light, Burpoe said he believes Cuomo should allow Franklin County to have its bed tax. It and Hamilton County are the only two in the state that do not already have such a tax.
County Manager Tom Leitz said that the bed tax would do a lot to help the county out. In the past few years, Franklin County has cut its expenses to a minimum.
"We're running out of areas to do that very quickly," Leitz said.
So the only other thing to do to keep balancing the budget is to increase revenue. Leitz said he believes that if the bed tax happens, the county will have more money to market itself to tourists more successfully, and that will draw more people in to spend money, generating more sales tax revenue for the county.
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