There is a perception by some that the bed tax is a painless fee assessed on faceless visitors from outside our county. But to those of us with B&B’s, inns, and motels, these people are not just customers, they are guests—many of whom return to our places again and again. And our guests get absolutely nothing for the dollars they shell out for the bed tax.
The difficult economy that we all face has been especially tough on working class and lower-to-moderate middle class folks—the kind of people who stay at smaller lodging properties. People don’t have the disposable income they had 15 years ago, and many already have to think twice before committing to a weekend getaway. Raising the bed tax on these folks will only make that decision tougher. Occupancy rates will drop as a result, and some lodging businesses may close. The bed tax on empty or closed rooms, remember, is 0 percent.
Essex County no doubt faces a daunting fiscal situation. If the bed tax must be raised, how about raising it on rooms at the high end—say, $150 and up. Folks who can pay that much for a night’s rest probably won’t lose a wink of sleep paying an extra 2 percent. The additional funds raised could then be directed to the county’s 18 towns, and tourism groups within those towns, to build up our tourism “infrastructure”—creating programs and amenities that will give visitors lots more reasons to come back to Essex County.
By creating a two-tiered tax structure, much like what is being contemplated nationally, the county can level the playing field for lodging businesses. Only this time, everyone will benefit.
Fred Balzac, Jay