Otsego approves bed tax hike

Bliss

 Otsego County’s Board of Representatives voted unanimously to raise the county’s bed tax by 2% during its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

The move will raise the taxes visitors pay for renting hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and online short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO from 4% to 6%.

Part of the bed tax money goes to the Destination Marketing Corporation of Otsego County, the public-private company that replaced the county’s tourism department in 2014, and another portion goes directly into micro-grants that the county awards to groups running destination events.

However, the 2% raise is earmarked for highway funds, a proposition that was first brought from the Public Works Committee to the full board in 2019. The proposal was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic — the county made almost no bed tax money in 2020 anyway — and amended recently, so it would go into effect in September 2021, after this year’s potential tourism season.

Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom, told the board that because so many summer tourism rentals are booked at the beginning of the year, or just after the induction class announcement is made by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in January, it would be confusing to require rental merchants to go back and demand 2% extra in taxes from customers who have already made reservations and payments.

A more typical tourism year can bring in several million dollars to the county’s revenue through bed tax money.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Otsego County’s meetings are being held via Zoom and broadcast on Facebook.

In other business last week:

• Vice Chair Meg Kennedy told the board members she thinks a county administrator could be hired by fall. Kennedy said Personnel Director Penney Gentile will appear at the next Intergovernmental Affairs Committee meeting to help set the job listing. Kennedy said the listing could go live in March, with interviews beginning in late spring or summer. The position was about to be advertised last spring when the pandemic and resulting fiscal crisis in the county forced a hiring freeze and other austerity measures. The IGA meeting will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

• The board also renewed its spending freeze, which was adopted last summer, but expired at the end of the year.

• Bliss told the board members they will hear a special presentation from members of the county’s police-community review board at the board’s next board meeting, which will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 3. The group’s work is due to the state by April 1, as mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order 203 on police reform and reinvention.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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