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Half of hotel/motel tax revenue to be given to Washington County municipalities

July 16, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Part of a tax on hotel and motel revenues in Washington County will be distributed to Hagerstown and the county's eight towns based on the population of those municipalities.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a distribution formula for the tax, resolving a long-standing complaint from some municipal officials who have said the county should give out more of the money.

Under the formula approved Tuesday, half of the tax revenue still will go to the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The other half will be divided among the county's nine municipalities, with the most-populated towns getting more of the revenue.

The county commissioners chose from four distribution options Tuesday.

One, which would have distributed the tax based on where it was collected, received little consideration because the county's four towns without hotels - Funkstown, Smithsburg, Keedysville and Clear Spring - would receive no money.

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The other three options used population numbers to determine how the money should be distributed.

One option went solely by population while the other two set minimum amounts for each town and distributed the remainder of the money by population.

The commissioners unanimously chose an option that will give each town and the City of Hagerstown $15,000. The rest of the money will be distributed based on population.

County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said distributing the money without minimum amounts would leave some towns, like Clear Spring, with less than $5,000.

"All the projects we get requests for are in the $10,000 to $20,000 range," Kercheval said.

Under that formula adopted Tuesday and based on this year's budget projections, Hagerstown would get $139,940 in Fiscal 2009. The other eight towns would get between $16,532 and $24,533 based on their size.

Currently, if towns or the City of Hagerstown want to use hotel-motel tax revenue to fund an event, they must request that money from the county commissioners.

Under the new plan, the money will be distributed quarterly.

It can only be spent on tourism attractions, economic development or cultural or recreational events.

The county's municipalities will have to account for how the money is spent.

Commissioner William J. Wivell asked if the county's municipal mayors had agreed to the distributions based on population.

County Administration Gregory B. Murray said Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II had received assurance from the seven other mayors.

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