County approves 4 percent ‘bed’ tax

Trish Isabella, the leader of Monday’s protest, thinks the “bed tax” is unbearable, so she lets her plush friend do the talking for her in front of North William Street in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County supervisors on Monday afternoon overwhelmingly approved a new 4 percent hotel/motel occupancy tax law despite a small protest outside and several property owners speaking inside during a public hearing.

The Board of Supervisors voted 19-0 at the County Office Building, with one absent member, to pass a local law to create the tax. It will go into effect after July 1.

Outside the building, a couple of opponents of the tax decorated vehicles with signs that read “No Bed Tax” and urged North William Street motorists to honk against the tax. The opponents told supervisors walking to the building just before the board meeting: “You’re not listening to your people.” They said Saratoga County has a 1 percent occupancy tax.

“We don’t need it,” said Trish Isabella, who was leading the protest.

But it was clear board members favored the tax as a way to cut other costs.

“This is logical because we can’t afford the [state] mandates,” Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. said.

The new law defines “hotel and motel” on bills this way: “Any facility providing lodging to the public on an overnight basis and shall include, but not limited to, those facilities designated and commonly known as bed and breakfast, inns, cottages, lodges, vacation rentals, home rentals, camp rentals, apartments, resorts, guest houses, town houses, condominiums, RV parks and tourist facilities.”

Many counties in New York state already have an occupancy tax. The state Legislature previously

approved special legislation allowing Fulton County to create a local law for an occupancy tax. Funding will go toward county tourism and economic development efforts.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor John Blackmon said Saratoga County does have a 1 percent occupancy tax, but it raises about $900,000. He said Fulton County’s 4 percent tax is supposed to raise about $120,000 to $150,000.

Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy felt the county has too many “eyesores” and any new development funding is good.

“We have to clean up this county,” he said.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene said the county needs to be transparent on how occupancy tax proceeds are spent.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said that state law requires the money be segregated in a reserve account.

During the hearing, Isabella identified herself only as a Fulton County resident.

“We feel this tax you’re imposing is unnecessary,” she said. “I think you should really reconsider it.”

Isabella, who said another tax discourages new businesses, said the county should at least have an occupancy tax below 4 percent.

Dave Hockey, owner of Southern Adirondack Pines campground and cabins in Caroga Lake, said he’s not opposed to the tax. He said 2 percent “would be a better place to start.” He said the county should also issue an annual report so the public can see where the money was spent.

“I guess my main concern is to make sure it’s spent wisely,” Hockey said.

Lee Hollenbeck, of County Highway 146, town of Broadalbin, said he’s in favor of the occupancy tax. He said it adds to ways to secure revenue and help cut property taxes.

John Peck, of 122 Hemlock Drive, Peck’s Lake, stated: “I don’t think this one is a good idea.”

He said Fulton County “positive” is the county’s saying, but that should mean keeping taxes down and not burdening small business owners. He called a 4 percent tax “way out of line.”

Albert Peck, of 147 Peck’s Lake Road, of Peck’s Lake Resort Marina and Campground, said the tax is wrong. He said the county is “trying to drive tourism out of Fulton County, not trying to keep it.”

“If you impose this tax, it’s going to drive people to other counties,” he said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich

By Chad Fleck

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