Hotel/Motel tax hike proposed
Representatives from Travel Berkeley Springs, led by Stephanie Rebant
and Jeanne Mozier, appeared before the Morgan County Commission on February 17 to ask for a 1% hike in the county’s hotel/motel
The tax rate is now 3% and has been at that level since 1989.
“We have cut everything possible. It has been a difficult year. The truth of the matter is a lot of occupancy tax did not come in that we were expecting and budgeted for,” Rebant said.
Mozier said the 1% tax increase would bring in an additional $15,000 to TBS, but that still wouldn’t be enough and they would have to rely on business growth for additional income.
“Travel Berkeley Springs is probably the most cost effective development tool we have in Morgan County. We are supporting a $30 million industry with maybe 600 employees and 100 owners, and we do it for the most part with money from non-Morgan County residents,” Mozier said.
Commissioner Brad Close said raising the tax could have an impact on the employment sector.
“It is very hard for me personally to raise taxes with jobs so hard to come by in this current climate we are in,” he said.
Close asked if TBS would be in this position if the Town of Bath were collecting and paying the taxes they were supposed to be collecting.
“I would say we would be border line,” Mozier said. She explained that even if they received the $15,000 in taxes still owed over the last two years, it would still be “border line to keep our doors open.”
Mozier said TBS has been unable to do any advertising and employee Laura Smith has not been paid since November. She said for 10 years “Morgan County residents did not pay a dime for brochures” because of Washington Heritage Trail money.
But that money has dried up and probably won’t be coming back, she said.
“We have had such a cash flow nightmare that we can’t even apply for a state grant for the projects we want to do because we don’t have the money to match the grant,” Rebant said.
Close said his approval of an increase in the occupancy tax would be contingent on the town approving the same rate.
Mozier and Rebant said they were on the town’s agenda and the town and county tax had to be the same.
Close asked if there is any chance of the town collecting the back taxes they are owed.
The Country Inn owes about $30,000 in back occupancy taxes and has proposed a payment plan to the town council.
“Other organizations in the county benefit from this tax as well,” Commissioner Stacy Dugan pointed out while TBS gets half the money, the other half goes to organizations such as the Morgan County Fair, Morgan Arts Council, the museum and state park.
After some discussion, the commissioners decided to tentatively schedule a public hearing on the proposed 1% hotel tax hike for Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. in the courthouse.
The county commission is required by law to hold a public hearing on any proposed tax increase before taking action.