Town agrees to public hearing before considering hotel/motel tax increase

March 01, 2011|By TRISH RUDDER |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — The Bath Town Council does not want to raise the hotel/motel tax until the public has the chance to voice an opinion.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Travel Berkeley Springs President Stephanie Rebant asked the council to raise the current 3 percent tax to 4 percent.

Rebant said because of the hotel/motel tax shortfalls and receiving less money to operate the local tourism agency, TBS has made budget cuts and has been unable to pay its one employee since November.

She asked the council to "enforce hotel/motel tax collections and increase it by 1 percent."

Mayor Susan J. Webster said, "I don't like to raise taxes. This is an economic development issue."

Rebant said the 1 percent increase will provide TBS with about $20,000 if the town and county raise the rate.

Jeanne Mozier, a TBS board member, said the county will not raise the tax unless the town does. She said the 1 percent tax increase would raise the lodging cost by about $1.25 per night.

Rebant said the TBS board members agreed with the rate increase.

"If you want it, I would vote for it," said Councilman David Crosby, who chairs the town's finance committee. He suggested the council make a decision at its next meeting and then have a public hearing.

But Mozier said that would take too much time, so the council members agreed to a joint public hearing with the Morgan County Commission on March 16 at 7 p.m. at the commission offices.

Country Inn's hotel/motel tax under legal advisement

The Bath Town Council voted unanimously to allow the town's finance committee to work with the town's attorney, Richard Gay, to negotiate payments with The Country Inn, which owes the town about $25,000 in hotel/motel taxes.

"We are trying to collect the taxes owed us but we want to keep The Country Inn intact and not shut it down," said Councilman David Crosby, who chairs the finance committee.

The council also voted unanimously that if there is a failure in the negotiations, the town will file a lawsuit against The Country Inn.

"A lawsuit will be pursued if negotiation is not satisfactory," Crosby said.

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