2010-12-30 / Front Page

Commissioners Mull Hotel Tax

Townhall meeting schedule set for 2011
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The Fulton County commissioners on Tuesday kicked around the pros and cons of implementing a hotel tax in county and, as part of their discussion, agreed to check with other eighth-class counties in the commonwealth to get a better handle on cost and administrative duties.

In sitting down with Fulton County Chamber and Tourism Promotion members Brenda Gordon, Clyde Bookheimer and Michael Crampton on Tuesday, December 28, the commissioners reviewed a copy of a hotel tax ordinance implemented in Carbon County as well as a summary of all counties in the state requiring visitors to pay a room tax; how the revenue is divided and utilized; and the tax percentage implemented on a county-by-county basis.

Commissioner David Hoover II began the lengthy conversation by pointing out he routinely travels across the United States and frequently pays hotel and other related taxes. “Why shouldn’t we? (impose a hotel tax)” questioned Hoover.

Even though the numbers have undoubtedly changed, Gordon noted it was calculated many years ago, a total of 106 rooms in the county were taxable. Furthermore, exemptions are made available to state and government employees seeking local boarding in addition to individuals who require lodging for periods longer than 30 days. Campgrounds, cabins and state park and forest lodging are also exempt.

Gordon added any money at this point is better than none. Furthermore, the chamber is struggling due to limited funding and addresses issues day-today, she stated.

“If it’s something that will work out...every little bit helps,” she concluded. “ ... There’s no sense in doing it if it’s not cost effective.”

Another benefit to having the additional income of a hotel tax would be that the money could serve as matching funding for grants, Bookheimer suggested.

Hoover questioned the chamber members as to what type of impact a hotel or room tax would have on local bed and breakfast and hotel owners. Crampton, who along with his wife, Linda, operates Crampton Manor Bed and Breakfast along Country Lane in McConnellsburg, said a tax implementation would have little impact whatsoever on his business aside from additional paperwork and management.

“It shouldn’t encourage or discourage customers,” said Crampton.

The bed and breakfast operator also stated in the event a tax is not feasible locally, it would be prudent for business owners to advertise that Fulton County is a hotel tax-free county.

“I’m against adding taxes for any reason,” he concluded.

Commissioner Bonnie Mellott Keefer pointed out an analysis would likely need completed to determine the number of rooms currently available for lodging in county and annual income. Related administrative fees, possible software costs and a percentage breakdown of any income should also be investigated by speaking with representatives from other eighth-class counties. Comparable counties include both Sullivan and Forest counties.

In Forest County, a 3 percent room tax is currently enacted. Fifty percent of the funding is earmarked for a multi-county tourism promotion committee, and the remaining 50 percent goes into a grant fund. Meanwhile in Sullivan County, the county has implemented a 3 percent hotel tax. Seventy-percent of the county’s income from a room tax is given to help with tourism promotion and the remainder of the money is for grant funding.

In other county business this week, the commissioners set their town meeting schedule for 2011. In 2010 the commissioners conducted seven meetings around the county that will be pared down to five. As a result, the schedule has been set at March 3 at the Thompson Township Municipal Building; April 7 at the Green Hill Sewing Club; May 5 at the Hustontown Firehall; July 7 at a location to be announced in Brush Creek Township; and August 4 at the Wells Tannery Community Building. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and will cover a variety of topics such as the county renovation project, the 2011 county budget; transportation; and infrastructure.

The commissioners authorized Commissioner Keefer to sign a contract with M&S Technology in the amount of $2,587.50 for an antivirus subscription.

The commissioners agreed to eliminate former Brush Creek Township tax collector Terra Strait from their bond. Nancy Oakman has agreed to serve in the interim as tax collector and was accordingly added.

Last Tuesday afternoon, the commissioners met with Darren Cassidy and Tom Lynch, project and construction foremen with Palmer Construction, regarding pouring sidewalks along the courthouse. Cassidy reported at the time there was 12” of frozen ground where the sidewalk is to be poured. As a result, standard pouring procedures could not be followed. It was decided to proceed with the pouring of the concrete sidewalks.

Area Agency on Aging Director Alan Smith was on hand for a bid opening for handicapped accessible vehicles. The following bids were received with the first bid representing the cost for one vehicle and the following two bids representing the cost of seven and eight vehicles, respectively: Leibensperger Transportation Sales, Inc. of Mcungie, Pa., $37,384, $261,688(7) and $299,072(8); Rohrer Bus Sales of Duncannon, Pa., $39,987, $279,909(7) and $319,896(8); and Wolfington Body Co. Inc. of New Buffalo, Pa., $34,061, $238,427(7) and $272,488 (8).

The bids were tabled for further review.

The commissioners met with chief assessor Michelle Sowers and solicitor Stanley Kerlin to discuss valuations of the properties that will be coming out of the Keystone Opportunity Zone at the end of 2010.

A lease agreement was penned with Ronald S. Kearns, successor trustee of the Ray S. Koontz Revocable Living Trust, for temporary office space and utilities for the sheriff’s office beginning January 1, 2011, and concluding December 31, 2011. The monthly cost for the office space and utilities has been set at $595.

Keefer signed a purchase order with Tele-Plus for the installation of security equipment in the new probation and domestic relations offices in the amount of $3,385.

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