Group objects to hotel tax revenue going to EDC

February 21, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

With state lawmakers poised to vote on doubling Washington County's motel-hotel tax, the executive director of the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau said Monday that board members object to a plan to give some tax proceeds to a county agency.

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The local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will vote this morning on the tax increase, State Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said Monday.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau supports use of funds for construction of a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns, Executive Director Ben Hart said.

But he said the bureau's board has heard from hotel owners who object to the part of a state plan to give 15 percent of the proceeds from the hotel-motel tax increase to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, Hart said.


The proposal estimates 15 percent of the proceeds at about $138,536 a year.

"We did not change our position but we do support the hotels' position that any increase should be used for tourism purposes," Hart said. They do not consider the EDC to be "tourism," he said.

Hart said he was summing up the consensus of the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, which discussed the issue at its Feb. 17 meeting. The board did not vote on the position because it did not have a quorum, he said.

Shank said he considers the EDC an appropriate recipient of the funds from the increased hotel-motel tax because many of the people who stay at hotels and who will pay the tax are in the county on business.

In early December the bureau board voted 10-1 to support an increase in the hotel-motel tax to 5 percent from its present 3 percent, with proceeds from 1 percent going to a stadium and 1 percent going to the bureau.

The state plan instead calls for increasing the tax to 6 percent.

The local delegation's plan is intended to raise money that could be used for a stadium and to help Washington County curb its $52.3 million water and sewer debt problem.

The bureau isn't the only organization objecting to parts of the plan.

On Saturday, Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, said members feared that changes to the county's gambling law would hurt their private fund-raising efforts.

A proposed law that is part of the stadium plan increases the percentage of money from tip jar profits going to fire and rescue companies. Currently, the companies split 40 percent of the tip jar profits distributed by the Washington County Gaming Commission. The other 60 percent goes to nonprofit groups.

Under the proposed bill, which the delegation endorsed last week, the fire and rescue companies and the nonprofits would split the tip jar money evenly.

The additional money going to the fire and rescue companies would be offset by an equal reduction in the amount of money they receive from the Washington County Commissioners.

Grimes said the association will lobby against the bill in Annapolis.

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