By LEVI PASCHER
Fulton County Express
JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors are once again seeking help from state legislatures in implementing a hotel/motel occupancy tax.
State-level approval is required for enacting the “bed tax,” so the resolution approved last week specifically requests state officials and county’s representatives approve the proposed legislation to allow the enactment of a hotel/motel occupancy tax in Fulton County.
According to the resolution, the needed home rule legislation has since been introduced in the state Assembly and Senate through both respective bills S.7093 and A.9635.
The funds generated from the proposed 4-percent tax — which would apply to each overnight accommodation at any business that provides lodging — would be dedicated toward the “promotion of tourism development, economic development and other directly related and supporting activities.”
Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors Charles Potter said the resolution was created following meetings with local business owners to ensure that the funds would apply to the type of activities and initiatives that would help tourism across the county.
“We had to keep the wheels going with this because the bills have been introduced at the state level,” Potter said. “We are continuing to move forward and this could really provide a boost to our tourism industry.”
He said if allowed by the state the tax is estimated to generate approximately $80,000 to $100,000 per year. Potter said if the state were to pass the special legislation the board would need to pass another resolution to officially implement the new tax.
He said local hotel businesses were consulted and are now on board with the county’s latest push for the new occupancy tax.
However, when contacted directly the general manager of the Johnstown Holiday Inn Jim Landrio said he believes such a tax would still negatively impact his business, as well as those in Fulton County’s travel and tourism industry.
Landrio said he has spoken to several area colleagues in the industry and they are also concerned with how the supervisors “once again” failed to incorporate their suggestions before moving forward with requesting such legislation.
He said after last year’s attempt to secure permission to implement the tax, the county formed a committee consisting of county officials, local business owners and business advocates.
However, he said that committee was only called for one meeting and the recent resolution did little to address the concerns and suggestions that he and other business leaders proposed.
“We brought up several suggestions and it was our understanding that they would review the things we presented to them,” Landrio said. “We were supposed to follow-up with another meeting to discuss it further but we only had that one opportunity.”
He said one of the biggest issues he had with the tax was starting at the 4 percent rate rather than gradually implementing the tax. He also said this tax could deter potential clients from selecting his establishment for an alternative option that doesn’t include additional taxes.
“[The county supervisors] haven’t showed any effort to further discuss this,” Landrio said. “They didn’t take any of our suggestions into consideration and we’re disappointed because they gave us their word there would be a follow-up meeting before anything was done. That didn’t happen and the resolution shows they haven’t made any compromise or used any of the changes we suggested. It’s disheartening because if they are going to advocate for laws that impact the business community, they should at least listen to the business community.”
He also said he is concerned that the wording of the proposal does little to ensure that the funds will be allocated solely to the tourism industry.
“Clearly at this particular point they are going to do what they want to do regardless to how we feel about it,” Landrio said. “It’s discouraging and I don’t understand how people are in office if they don’t listen to the people they represent or the communities they should be working with and protecting. That’s not how government should work. It’s going to be a burden to our community.”