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County to divvy up bed tax surplus

Several county officials said funding for these two events would likely be up for reconsideration March 10.

Monday, the county supervisors decided to move up the deadline for event promoters to annually submit their applications - from Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 for events to be held the following year.

They also decided on to give more leeway in their evaluation process, to shift more weight to applications for events that have the most potential for growth and prompt the greatest number of overnight stays.

Supervisors expressed dismay that some promoters predict an unrealistically high potential bed-night totals, and they said some follow-up verification needs to be conducted of their predictions.

"We're putting a lot of emphasis on something so subjective, and we really can't verify it," said Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, who serves as county Budget Officer. "I've seen so many event promoters project numbers that don't even seem possible."

Lake George Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Luisa Craige-Sherman said the Smith Travel Report, which is a national resource for such bed-night figures, only surveys a small fraction of the 9,000 available rooms in the Lake George area.

She said her organization for years has been urging accommodations to voluntarily submit bed-night statistics for tourism planning purposes, and that she'd continue to seek their cooperation.

Monday, county supervisors also talked about setting aside excess Occupancy Tax money into a capital reserve fund to bankroll a tourism-related construction project such as a visitors center. Several years ago, county leaders considered buying the former Basketville store on state Rte. 9 just north of Northway Exit 20 as a visitors center and headquarters for the county tourism operations.

The supervisors also mentioned setting aside money for constructing an events venue at the former Gaslight Village.

Talk also surfaced Monday of using some of the excess Occupancy Tax money to pay off the county's outstanding balance of $268,000 of a loan taken out years ago to purchase Gaslight Village. The county's share of the purchase price was $1.2 million. County officials said a payment of $133,000 toward the outstanding balance was due to be paid Monday. Geraghty said that whether Occupancy Tax receipts could legally be used to pay off such a loan would have to be researched by county Attorney Paul Dusek.

Decisions on earmarking money for a capital reserve fund will be undertaken in months to come, the supervisors agreed.

The Occupancy Tax is a 4 percent surcharge on rooms rented short-term. The surplus of $1 million, overlooked by county leaders until a few weeks ago, accrued during the past four years due to the county tourism department spending less than allocated and tax receipts exceeding amounts previously allocated for events, officials said.

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