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Hagerstown wants a bigger slice of county's hotel-motel tax

February 05, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday he plans to ask members of the local delegation to the General Assembly today for legislation requiring the Washington County Commissioners to give a portion of the hotel-motel tax proceeds to the city each year.

But Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell, who opposes the request, said he also plans to attend today's meeting of the local delegation in Annapolis and may speak against Breichner's proposal.

Breichner said he wants the delegation to use population statistics to come up with a share of the lodging tax proceeds to be given to the city.

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According to the 2000 Census, there were 36,687 Hagerstown residents in a county with a population of 131,923, or a city population of about 28 percent.

It seems fair that the county be required to give at least 28 percent of the hotel tax proceeds to the city, Breichner said.

He said he would not object to the state requiring money to go to other municipalities also.

The issue was briefly mentioned during Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting.

After the meeting, Councilmen Kristin B. Aleshire and N. Linn Hendershot said they agree that the county should give the city a slice of the hotel tax revenue pie each year but they did not think it should be necessary to mandate that by law.

Most of the hotels in the county are in the city, Aleshire said.

Wivell and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners should have the authority to spend the money as they see fit, provided it meets the law's requirements.

A law passed in 2000, increasing Washington County's hotel-motel tax from 3 percent to 6 percent, requires the county to spend 55 percent of the proceeds on tourism, to enhance economic development or to support cultural and recreational projects.

Snook said he did not think the delegation would support Breichner's request.

In fiscal year 2000-01, the county spent about $280,000 in hotel tax money on joint projects with the city in a year when it had $569,869 in hotel tax revenues to give out, according to county documents.

In fiscal year 2001-02, the county spent about $325,000 in hotel tax money on a joint project with the city in a year when it had $612,869 to give out, according to county documents.

For the current fiscal year, 2002-03, the county gave the $5,000 from about $575,000, the documents said. The Hagerstown City Council had asked for $270,000 in hotel tax money.

For the current year's budget, the county set up a process for nonprofit organizations to apply for hotel tax funds and it was decided that some other projects deserved more money than some city projects, Snook said.

The county has been fair in its distribution to different groups and municipalities, he said.

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