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Camp tax proposed

May 17, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The executive director of a local tourism group has asked the Washington County Commissioners to levy a 6 percent tax on the cost of staying at campgrounds, cabins and recreational vehicle sites.

Ben Hart, of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this week the lodging tax would generate additional money for the county and the Visitors Bureau.

Hart said as much at $80,000 to $90,000 would be generated from the tax.

The county would receive 55 percent of the tax revenues, while the Visitors Bureau would receive 45 percent, Hart said.

The county's share would go in a fund for tourism, economic development and recreational and cultural activities, he said.

The County Commissioners were given authority by the state to impose the tax this year, Hart said.

Hart said the tax raises a fairness issue since hotels and motels collect a similar tax. He also said campgrounds had asked for more promotion from the bureau.

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"The hotels and motels collect this tax, and the campgrounds are just as much a benefit as the hotels are," Hart told the commissioners at a meeting this week.

"We think it's a win-win situation because the county would obviously have another $40,000 to $50,000 to put in their fund," he said.

He asked whether the commissioners could enact the tax by the start of the next fiscal year, which is July 1. He said Friday the sooner the tax is collected, the sooner the Visitors Bureau can begin promoting the campgrounds.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners haven't yet discussed the matter.

"I don't think there will be a decision made soon," Snook said at a meeting this week. "If it does go forward, it's not going to be July 1."

Commissioner John C. Munson questioned whether campgrounds and recreational vehicle sites feared they would lose business if a tax were levied on the cost of staying there.

"There is no fear at all that we'll decrease business," Hart said.

He said people don't think about paying for such a tax when they stay at hotels or campgrounds.

On Friday, Hart said he knows of no evidence that shows lodging taxes harm business.

But John Durham, owner of Antietam/Hagerstown KOA Campground in Williamsport, said he fears people will head to Pennsylvania or West Virginia where there they don't have to pay a tax.

"I think it's going to hurt the campgrounds in the area," Durham said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

Still, Durham said he can support the tax if the revenue generated by it goes toward tourism.

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