Delaware County supervisors OK bed tax proposal

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By Cheryl Petersen
Delaware County Supervisors moved forward last week to implement a bed tax. Funds garnered from the proposed two percent hotel, motel, and bed and breakfast room occupancy tax in Delaware County will be used to promote tourism. “But, we must understand, the funds will help prevent us from increasing property tax,” said Stamford Supervisor Mike Triolo.
“A forum on a bed tax was held in Middletown a while back,” said Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller. “It helped draft the language of the bed-tax resolution, making it broader than just an added bed tax. It will also hopefully bring bed renters into compliance with paying sales tax in the county.”

Following Otsego
After the meeting Miller explained, “Delaware County is taking an approach made in Otsego County. Once the bed tax comes into effect, the treasurer’s office will be able to appoint an administrator who can research and investigate situations where beds are rented for the night. Quite often there are second homeowners who rent their bed, however don’t pay sales tax. With the bed tax, they would be required to pay both sales and bed tax.”
Not everyone was happy about the bed-tax proposal. Davenport Supervisor Dennis Valente said, “We do not need more taxes.” Colchester Supervisor Arthur Merrill voiced his opposition saying, “I’ve spoken with my constituents and we feel it isn’t fair to tax only the hotel industry, without taxing other businesses affected by tourism, such as restaurants.”
The resolution to levy an occupancy tax in Delaware County will go before the state legislature to be assigned a bill. “Some residents in Franklin are not for a bed tax, and they will then be able to speak at a public hearing after the bill is passed at the state level,” said Franklin Supervisor Jeff Taggart.

Fund distribution
If passed, the bed-tax money will be allocated to the county treasurer. A board will distribute the funds. “The treasurer’s office will appoint someone to research homes rented out to vacationers,” said Marge Miller.
At the meeting, officials also recognized May as Mental Health Month, and awarded Shawn Sulger, from the sheriff’s office, employee of the month. Sheriff Tom Mills said, “Shawn is an asset to the department and has been instrumental in the mandatory classification process.”

Cutbacks proposed
A resolution to curb expenses in transportation for the Special Education Program was passed. Expenses will near $1 million this year, therefore the Department of Public Health has contracted with the VMC Group, based in Niagara Falls, to provide bid process services and ongoing cost control services.
VMC Group charges approximately $55,000 a year for their services and will be engaged for three years.
Tom Shepstone, planning and research consultant, reported to the board on a Cold Water Economic Study, initiated by the County Economic Development and Friends of the Upper Delaware River. The financial impact on Delaware County, encompassing the river, stands at an estimated $414 million.
The study was constructed from state data and information received from a survey that went out to 169 businesses. Research revealed an opportunity to approach New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with a plan to provide a more consistent flow of water in the region, especially on the weekends. “Anglers and boaters only want to come up here if the water level approaches 725 cubic feet per second,” said Shepstone.
“With the continued cooperation of DEP, a projected additional $274 million would come to Delaware County, directly and indirectly, though fishing and boating,” said Shepstone.
Public Health Commissioner, Bonnie Hamilton, reported to the board, departmental mission changes taking place. “We are trending away from individual services and focusing on population needs,” said Hamilton.
“A five-year plan, evidence based, has pinpointed two goals,” said Hamilton. “We are putting into place programs to prevent chronic disease, and to promote mental health and prevent substance abuse.”
The leading cause of chronic disease is obesity. The department will advocate for walking trails and safe streets, classified by levels of difficulty to counter the 66 percent of county residents who are obese or overweight.
“We also will support breastfeeding in the workplace since data shows breastfeeding offsets obesity,” added Hamilton, who also reminded everyone of the importance of vaccinating pets against rabies.