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Use of revenue from hotel tax is questioned

Cattaraugus County Legislators on Wednesday questioned a proposal to parcel out $110,000 to tourism groups seeking a share of revenues from the county's hotel occupancy tax.

Members of two committees -- Finance, and Development and Agriculture -- responded with some questions when asked to support an early draft of legislation for a marketing program that would use occupancy tax revenues and surplus funds.

Members of both committees wanted to know whether only bed tax revenues were the source of the program's funding and how decisions would be made to grant program funding requests from the local Chambers of Commerce.

Development and Agriculture Committee Chairman Jerry E. Burrell, R-Franklinville, warned that the chambers and tourism organizations serving the Olean-Allegany and Ellicottville communities will present requests for the largest portion of the funding under the new program.

"Those are the generators of the bed tax revenues," he said, explaining that the tourism groups want to reinvest the revenues in the communities devoting the most resources to the tourism economy.

The appropriation was requested in recent weeks by tourism leaders who say the county has failed to return the occupancy tax revenues to the communities with an investment in tourism.

The draft proposal was achieved after lawmakers met Tuesday night with tourism officials and county tourism staff members.

Attending the Tuesday session were representatives from six of the county's nine Chamber and tourism groups: Salamanca, Ellicottville, Dayton, Randolph, Greater Olean Area and East Otto.

The 5 percent tax on hotel and motel room rents generated $432,384 for the county.

No votes were taken on the proposal during the committee meetings.

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