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Essex County Board votes to table bed tax

The Essex County Board of Supervisors

The Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— The Essex County Board of Supervisors has decided to place on hold a move to increase the county occupancy tax from 3 to 5 percent.

The group tabled a resolution Dec. 3 by a vote of 15-1 to increase the occupancy tax — also known as a bed tax — with only Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava voting against the table.

The tax increase would require the approval of home-rule authority from the state Legislature and the adoption of a local law by Essex County.

If enacted, the additional tax is expected to reign in $1.2 million dollars for the county, according to County Treasurer Mike Diskin.

The additional revenue will be broken down as follows: 25 percent toward the operation and management of the fish hatchery, 25 percent to be deposited into a Tourism Product Development Fund, 4 percent to be used for visitor transportation and 46 percent will go toward winter and shoulder season marketing programs.

“The way I see this is it buys us some flexibility with our tourism dollars and that’s an important thing right now, especially when so many parts of our fiscal picture are not flexible,” said Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery-Corey.

Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, who pushed for the 2 percent increase, echoed that it would be good for the county.

“Even though I know there’s people out there that think this is not a good thing and it’s going to hurt business, I’m sorry, but there’s a number of hotels in my town and I can’t see that an extra 2 percent on a room is going to turn anyone away,” Preston said.

Not everyone thinks the tax is a good idea.

Fred Balzac, owner of Book and Blanket Bed and Breakfast in Jay, spoke at the meeting and encouraged the supervisors to table the increased bed tax for a month and take that time to meet with lodging owners and consider other options.

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