AREA NEWSThe Putnam Examiner

Although a Hot Topic, Hotel Tax Has Little Support in Putnam

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Patterson Councilwoman Ginny Nacerino and Southeast Councilwoman Lynne Eckhardt took up the invitation made to town representatives to participate in a county legislative committee meeting to discuss the pros and cons of a hotel occupancy tax.

Despite a veto by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell of a legislature-approved proposal to levy a hotel tax back in June, the topic returned to the the legislature’s audit and administration committee agenda on Monday, July 30.

Representatives of the different towns in Putnam County were invited to attend and lend their thoughts and ideas regarding the levying of a hotel occupancy tax and Patterson Councilwoman Ginny Nacerino and Southeast Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt joined in the discussion with legislators at the meeting.

Although the discussion was lively, the committee did not seek to place the issue before the full legislature for a vote again this year.

Committee Chair Mary Conklin said she supported implementing a hotel occupancy tax and added that she did not believe doing so would penalize local residents.

“[It’s] not a user fee for the people who live here,” Conklin said, adding that she understood that formally pursuing a hotel tax was not on the horizon in the near future. “It’s kind of in limbo right now.”

Eckardt said she was skeptical of the hotel tax and the negative impact it might have on small businesses owners.

“[It] would be a type of sales tax,” she said.

Just last month, Eckhardt voiced similar concerns when Southeast Town Supervisor Tony Hay broached the idea asking the state legislature to approve a town-levied hotel tax, simply to make the point that, in all likelihood, it would never happen.  In the end, the Southeast Town Board did not act on the matter.

Eckardt said if the county were to pursue a hotel tax in the future, that the legislation should make clear that a portion of the revenues generated would be shared  with the “hosting town” where the hotels are located.

Nacerino said she and her colleagues on the Patterson Town Board had doubts the state legislature would approve a future request from Putnam County to levy a hotel occupancy tax, calling it, “a long shot.”

But Conklin said the state legislators she had spoken with indicated that they were open to potentially approving a hotel tax.

Even so, Nacerino said she had concerns.

“Every time we add a tax it doesn’t go away,” Nacerino said.

Legislator Dan Birmingham, who was one of two legislators to vote “no” on the hotel tax proposal before it was vetoed by Odell, said he stood firm in his opposition.

Instead of levying new taxes, Birmingham said, the county needed to find ways to control spending.

With each new tax on residents, Birmingham said, “We always find a way to spend it….we tax enough.”

Legislator Dini LoBue, who had voted to approve the measure to ask Albany for permission to levy the hotel tax and voted later to override Odell’s veto, said she would only continue to support a hotel tax if it was paired with a reduction in the sales tax.

LoBue said that instead of going to Home Depot in Putnam County, residents were driving across the border to the same store in Danbury because of Connecticut’s lower sales tax.

Southeast resident Ann Fanizzi attended the meeting and spoke in favor of a hotel occupancy tax.

She said travelers expect to have the tax tacked onto the end of their hotel bill and that people visiting would make decisions on where to stay based on room rates, as other surrounding areas already had a hotel tax. She also suggested that a portion of the revenues from such a tax could be used toward the promotion of tourism in Putnam County.



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