MALONE — A committee appointed to research bed-tax options for the Franklin County Legislature wants a clear vision before moving along too far.
Members, who have met twice now, said they need to know whether they are just investigating a fresh revenue stream for tourism as a replacement for tax dollars in the budget or seeking a source for a comprehensive tourism-based economic-development plan.
They say that until they have a defined goal, they don’t want to waste time or start off on a track that differs from a destination that legislators want pursued.
The answer will determine if the committee merely tweaks an existing law developed by Essex County and also used in Clinton County to make it work in Franklin County.
If that’s the case, “there’s not that much work to get it done, and we can get it over with,” said Ernest Holmeyer, owner of Mountain Community Vision consulting and Lake Clear Lodge.
“But from a lodging perspective, I’m more interested in the plan, and if we’re replacing one pot of money for another because there are some serious tourism opportunities in Franklin County.”
The bed tax will be discussed at a meeting set for 10 a.m. today in the Legislative Chambers at the Franklin County Courthouse.
STATE OF TOURISM
Lesley Lyon of Sunday Pond Bed and Breakfast in Lake Clear is also the county’s commissioner of Social Services and favors a broader approach, with an emphasis on job creation and economic growth.
“The bed-tax law is pretty straightforward,” she said. “But are we also going to look at the state of tourism in Franklin County and how tourism is related to the increase in the occupancy of beds here and the addition of new beds and how it will impact jobs?”
She said under that kind of vision, revenue from a bed tax could increase owner investment and raise the number of available overnight beds at hotels and motels. That, she said, would lead to more hospitality-industry jobs that could mean a lower county budget and savings for taxpayers.
Under that scenario, the existing committee members or others appointed by the legislators would need a small staff to gather, organize and distribute information to the members, who would make a final tourism-strategy recommendation.
In addition to Lyon and Holmeyer, the committee members are Dan Dew Jr., owner of the Timber Lodge in Tupper Lake; Warren Gaggins, former BOCES superintendent; Neil Seymour, the county’s former tourism director; Chris LaBarge of Branch Development Corp., which owns the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Malone; and Bruce Monette of the Adirondack Energy family of companies and Titus Mountain Family Ski Center in Malone.
The County Legislature wants the committee’s recommendation by the end of the year so it can approach the State Legislature for permission to pursue an occupancy tax when a new session convenes in January.
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