Ulster County Legislature committee will debate hiking hotel/motel tax – Daily Freeman

KINGSTON, NY — Members of the Ulster County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, March 15, will continue debating a resolution that could lead to an increase in the county’s occupancy tax.

The measure, introduced by Legislator Joseph Maloney, would seek the permission of the state Legislature to increase the tax, a necessary first step in order for the county Legislature to ultimately vote to increase the tax that is levied against all hotels, motels and short- term rentals in the county.

Maloney, D-Saugerties, is looking for the state’s permission to increase the county’s occupancy tax to 6% for hotels, motels and bed and breakfast establishments and to 10% for short-term rentals. The county currently charges a 2% occupancy tax.

During a March 8 meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, members of the Ulster County Lodging Coalition said the increased tax would hurt businesses still reeling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Why now?” asked Steve Turk, owner of the Rocking Horse Ranch. “We just survived two years of COVID.”

Turk said that while other businesses such as the film industry and wineries are getting incentives to come into the county, the bill would further squeeze an already struggling industry.

Maloney said in most cases, the increase would have little impact on a visitor’s decision to stay in Ulster County, saying he had never heard of a visitor object to the taxes on a hotel room. He conceded the increase could have an impact on all-inclusive facilities such as Rocking Horse Ranch, calling that the “only tangible argument to a deterrent to somebody staying in Ulster County.

While the resolution, known as a “home rule request” would only give the county permission to increase the tax and county legislators would have to vote separately for the increase, Maloney said an increase is long overdue.

“We could essentially generate millions and millions of dollars from people outside the county who don’t care about paying the tax,” said Maloney. He added that the resulting income would allow the county to decrease property taxes and would provide additional revenue to address the housing shortage and other challenges facing county residents.

Maloney said the current 2% occupancy tax, which has been unchanged since 2005, is the lowest in the region.

Minority Leader Ken Ronk said he opposed the resolution because he sees no reason to increase the occupancy tax simply because Ulster County currently levies a lower tax than other counties in the area.

“I think it’s good we’re able to operate the county with a lower tax level,” said Ronk, R-Wallkill.

Ronk also questioned whether there would be any interest among state legislators to introduce a bill that would lead to a potential tax increase during an election year.

“I personally don’t believe we’re even going to get a bill introduced in either house to raise taxes,” he said.

Maloney said he intends to push for a vote of the Ways and Means Committee when it takes the matter up again on Tuesday.

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