Sunday, May 06, 2007

Big Tourist Draw Plan: Fayette Chamber of Commerce Wants New Hotel Tax

Tax others more, please. That will grow the tourism industry in the area.

That's basically what a spokeswoman for the local Fayette area Chamber of Commerce wants by virtually demanding implementation of a county hotel tax.

Visitors to our beautiful area are sitting ducks. If they have to visit because of business purposes, they might be able to write off some of the charges. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa wouldn't be affected by an increase in costs to customers since that business caters to those more well-set.

But all other local hotels will be impacted. How can those businesses possibly support an increase in any taxes? They justify it by saying: everybody else is doing it.

Right. Get the local officials to buy into the concept that taxing people more is the way to economic growth. What's sad - most elected officials are all too willing to jump on board into areas where they are not constitutionally authorized and they remain unaccountable. They tax you more, spend the money on things they shouldn't be doing, and you wonder why you're having to work 2 or 3 jobs per family household to make ends meet.

And those grants we potentially would get from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau... more taxpayers' monies directed to private business which shouldn't be getting the grants in the first place.

It isn't government's role or constitutional duty to prop up one private business over another. In this case, the local government would be turning over taxpayers' monies, which it takes from somebody, in this case guests in hotels or bed and breakfasts and they'd allow another agency to divvy up the monies back to the area.

The LHVB would determine who in the area is a worthy candidate for the tax pool.

We can't even hold elected officials accountable for how that money would be spent.

Not that this kind of thing doesn't happen around the state. It does, and it's sick.

These people think taxpayers' money is a bottomless well of gold. If the LHVB which would get 98 percent of the new hotel tax monies determines its own costs go up, that will mean less for divving up back to Fayette.

Really, Fayette shouldn't even be paying $20,000 to LHVB of local taxpayers' monies in the first place. What do they do that Fayette can't do to promote itself by having a reputation as a great place to visit with many interesting things to offer?

Years ago, when Fayette determined to opt into the LHVB objections fell on deaf ears because of local party politics.

The tax-shifting game is sick.

Don't implement any new taxes in the county. Enable the county to get out off the public dole - the "poverty" ridden mindset.

It's this kind of thinking that has held Fayette back for decades and decades, and it isn't going to change if any one of the candidates for commissioners supports the new hotel tax, and happens to get elected, or re-elected, in November.

The Internet has also changed the face of promotion of an area. All the county has to do is keep maintaining a decent website, and include highlighting area historical and tourist attractions. In fact, area businesses can easily promote themselves using the World Wide Web.

In addition, how much overlap is there in promotion of historical sites such as Fallingwater, Fort Necessity Battlefield, and Albert Gallatin's estate, Friendship Hill, which use federal taxpayers' monies to keep afloat?

Tax an issue for Fayette election
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 05/06/2007 12:03:49 AM EDT

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Despite the ability to impose a hotel room tax that could generate more than a half-million dollars annually and save the general fund a payment of $20,000 a year to a tourism agency, Fayette County is one of only three counties across the state that has not levied the tariff.

Muriel Nuttall, executive director of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, said the Fayette County Tourism Alliance is advocating implementation of the tax.
On the verge of the May 15 municipal primary that features all three Fayette County commissioners seeking re-election, the Fayette County Tourism Alliance, composed of members from the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, the National Road Heritage Corridor and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, has decided to bring the issue to the forefront.

Questions about the hotel tax will be among those asked of the five Democrats and two Republicans seeking party nominations at a candidate forum slated for 7 p.m. Monday at the State Theatre Center for the Arts. The Fayette Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the forum.

Nuttall said the topic has been "approached" by the county commissioners but never came back to their floor for a vote. "It's kind of a necessity. We have to get things going," Nuttall said. "We have amazing tourism destinations. This is a huge piece of that."

Legislation in late 2000 authorized the 45 Pennsylvania counties that did not levy a tax on hotel rooms to do so up to 3 percent of the room rate, and since that time the only counties that do not have the tax are Fayette, Fulton and Perry. Nuttall said Fulton and Perry are not tourist destination counties, while Fayette County clearly is because tourism is either the number one or number two industry in the county.

Nuttall said neighboring counties served by the LHVB have implemented the tax and have been able to not only stop paying an annual contribution to the tourism bureau, but have been able to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by the tax for tourism-related purposes within the counties.

"It's a win-win," Nuttall said. "The county gets the $20,000 back because the money isn't taken out of the general fund, and it is not a tax that is levied on the residents of Fayette County. Anywhere you travel, you pay it," she said. Nuttall added that as an example, in New York state the tax is about 12 percent.

"Anyone that travels anywhere, you pay it. If people stop and look at a hotel receipt, it's on there and many places it is much higher," Nuttall said.

Nuttall said because tourism is either the number one or number two industry in the county, it seems "very strange" that the county isn't imposing the tax. "It's a pass-through tax that is only paid by someone staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast," Nuttall said.

Nuttall said although the general consensus in Fayette County seems to be that fewer people will stay here if the tax is implemented, that has not been the case in Somerset and Westmoreland counties. "In Somerset and Westmoreland counties, overnight stays have increased every year since they implemented the tax," Nuttall said.

Nuttall said the county collects the tax and gets to keep 2 percent of whatever is collected, with the remaining 98 percent going to the county tourism agency. In the case of Fayette County, the LHVB is the official tourism promotion agency for the region comprising Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties...

Tribune-Review article

Fayette County officials finally will check out lucrative hotel tax
By Chris Foreman
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Despite a change in state law six years ago, Fayette County remains one of only three counties -- and the last in Western Pennsylvania -- without a local hotel room tax that could create a tourism grant program for its popular sites and parks and save $20,000 in the county's annual general fund.
While a tourism professional estimates the maximum 3 percent fee might snatch as much as $650,000 a year from out-of-towners, much like neighboring Somerset County, discussion about a room levy hasn't been a burning topic during the four-year terms of Fayette County Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink, Joe Hardy and Vincent Vicites.

With the primary election coming, the government affairs council of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce has decided to put the issue under the noses of the seven county commissioner candidates.

Chamber officials recently informed the five Democrats and two Republicans that the room tax will be one of the subjects at a candidates' forum Monday evening at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown.

Although an occupancy tax bloats the cost of a night's stay, some hosts said they believe the charge would be negligible while benefiting several of Fayette's festivals and historical locales.

When Westmoreland and Somerset county commissioners enacted 3 percent room taxes in 2002, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau began earmarking hundreds of thousands of dollars from each county for specific structural improvements and marketing campaigns for tourist spots.

Since then, those counties have stopped their annual payments to the bureau for tourism promotion, while Fayette County continues to give $20,000 in taxpayer funds and can't contribute to a grant program.

Before, Westmoreland gave the bureau $30,000 a year, and Somerset donated $21,500.

Now, both counties keep 2 percent of the annual hotel tax money for administrative purposes.

Susan Fleming, a bureau board member who owns the Cottages at Fayette Springs with her husband, said she supports the tax because of the limited amount of funding for property renovations at tourism sites.

Tourism Promotion Organizations and Agencies get millions in taxpayers' dollars

Oct. 31, 2006
Funding to support local and regional efforts to attract visitors to PA

HARRISBURG — Governor Edward G. Rendell today awarded $11 million in matching funds for the state’s 47 Tourism-Promotion Agencies (TPAs) to help them attract more travelers to the commonwealth and support one of the state’s top industries.

“Tourism creates jobs, enriches communities and helps Pennsylvania grow its economy,” Governor Rendell said. “Through aggressive tourism development, every region of Pennsylvania is more equipped than ever to provide visitors with the best possible experience.”

The base grants will be used by local TPAs to develop promotional materials, advertisements and other marketing activities.

In order to promote regional tourism, this program provides up to $2 in state funding for every $1 raised locally by single-county TPAs and up to $2.25 for TPAs crossing county lines. As part of Governor Rendell’s support of regional cooperation, $550,000 of the $11 million in grants is earmarked for cooperative marketing projects in which at least two TPAs work together. Pennsylvania’s matching funds grant program is the oldest and one of the largest in the nation.

Fayette's Website

Home Tourism

Whether you are a first time visitor, a return visitor or a resident of Fayette County, take time to discover and experience Fayette County's history, recreation and many attractions

Right Here in Fayette County

Fayette County government does not have its own Tourism Department.
Fayette County has designated Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau its TPA - Tourism Promotion Agency. The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau as been Fayette County's TPA for a number of years and receives $20,000 per year from the County's General Fund to provide marketing and information to promote tourism in Fayette County.


Let's see what the Fayette Chamber of Commerce has on its site.

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