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Washington Co. to distribute some hotel tax revenue

It is not yet know how money will be divided among municipalities

It is not yet know how money will be divided among municipalities

February 06, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County would distribute $300,000 in hotel tax revenue to its municipalities next fiscal year under a proposed change to the county's hotel tax fund.

But how that money would be divided, and whether all of the county's nine municipalities would benefit, still is to be determined.

After debating several options Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners agreed to ask local mayors and councils how they think the money should be distributed.

The county commissioners announced a plan to change the fund's distribution Tuesday during the 2008 State of the County address, calling it a step forward in an ongoing disagreement between county and city officials on the issue of revenue sharing.

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Hagerstown city officials have argued for years that the city, which has several hotels, should receive a percentage of the hotel tax revenue.

The hotel tax was created to pay for large economic development projects, such as stadiums, and also events that draw tourists to the county, Washington County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II on Wednesday called the proposal a "positive step in the right direction."

"Any change in the distribution of that tax is a plus," Bruchey said.

Under the proposal announced Tuesday, the county would move the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's budget from the hotel tax fund to the general fund, Murray said.

The county would continue to give half of the hotel tax revenue to the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is required by law, and would divide the remainder between the county and its municipal governments, Murray said.

In fiscal year 2009, which begins in July, the tax is expected to generate $1.64 million in revenue, according to budget projections.

Half of that amount, or $821,500, would be split between the county and municipalities under the proposal.

The county commissioners agreed Tuesday to reserve $300,000 for the county's municipalities.

Two options for distributing that money were discussed by the county commissioners before they agreed to seek input from local mayors and councils.

Under one option, the funds would be divided based on the population of each municipality. All eight towns and the City of Hagerstown would receive money.

Under another option, only the four municipalities with hotels - Hancock, Hagerstown, Sharpsburg and Williamsport - would receive funds. The amount would be based on how much revenue they generate, Murray said.

In each proposal, Hagerstown would receive more than two-thirds of the $300,000 allotted.

The county commissioners said Tuesday they did not think all of the municipalities should receive equal amounts of hotel tax revenue and said the county's share should not dip below $500,000.

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