Parks & Recreation needs attention
The Morgan County Parks & Recreation board has proposed hiking the county's hotel-motel tax from 3% to 6% as a way of generating more money for local sports and recreation programs. The group may need funds, but the idea of raising the lodging tax seems misguided since so many tourism-related businesses are struggling these days.
Anyone paying even a little attention could see there were fewer visitors on the street in the past year, even at the height of the summer. While tourists still come on weekends, the weekdays have been really slow. Given the national economy, we bet visitors are also spending less money per trip.
After all, they're just ordinary people facing the same financial pressures as everyone else. If a weekend retreat looks too expensive, they will go somewhere else or just stay home. Visitors to town are already paying the 3% room tax plus the 6% sales tax on every dollar they spend for lodging.
Hotel-motel tax receipts have been off for a couple years, reducing the pot of money that can be given to groups that promote tourism and sponsor recreation, cultural and beautification programs. We're not sure why anyone thinks the reasonable solution is to double the tax during hard times.
Hiking the tax is also more complicated than it appears. If the Morgan County Commissioners should say yes, their hike would only apply to establishments in the unincorporated area. The Bath Town Council would have to hike the tax in town. It would be very unfair if one governing body raised the tax and the other didn't.
From what we've heard, Parks & Recreation is mired in problems. They say they don't have enough money to do what they need to do. They seem to be in a battle with Little League over what they are charging for use of the Morgan County Recreation Area ballfields. And, they appear to have trouble keeping an active board.
The group's future shouldn't just be a Morgan County Commission problem or debate. Major contributors like the Bath Council and Morgan County School Board need to have a role, too. After all, the school system gives money from their special levy to Parks & Recreation and most of the group's programs are for young people.
We think the commissioners, board and council should each appoint a member to a three-person committee who will meet with representatives of Parks & Recreation, Little League, Travel Berkeley Springs and any other interested group at a short series of meetings. The committee's goal would be to sort through the various arguments and suggest a course of action to the elected bodies. Maybe the entire program needs to be reorganized.
By handling it this way, all of the political bodies wouldn't be bogged down on the issue until there are real recommendations to consider.