Lodging tax plan brings criticism

File photoA proposed amendment would put 100% of the short-term lodging tax revenue into the city’s general fund to be allocated during the regular budget process.

HUDSON — The Common Council held a public hearing on Monday to gather input from citizens concerning proposed Local Law No. B of 2020, which would amend the city’s lodging tax.

Half of the revenue from a lodging tax law passed in 2017 goes directly to the Tourism Board, while the rest is added to the general fund.

“The City of Hudson finds that the dedicated revenue from the short-term lodging tax unnecessarily constrains the ability of the city to meet the other fiscal needs of the City to protect the health, welfare and safety of city residents,” according to the proposed law.

The law would put 100% of the short-term lodging tax revenue into the city’s general fund to be allocated during the regular budget process. The Common Council would then fund the Tourism Board’s efforts as it sees fit.

“It would not abolish the Tourism Board,” Common Council President Thomas DePietro said. “The Tourism Board would still be welcome to make proposals to the council. Moreover, the Tourism Board at present has an excess of $300,000 to spend and it’s dedicated to tourism marketing as defined in the law.”

All short-term lodging, which is anything less than 30 days, is subject to a 4% tax. The Tourism Board was created to use that revenue to promote tourism in Hudson. Since its creation, the board is required to get approval from the Common Council to fund any projects.

Hudson Youth Department Director Nick Zachos, who advocates for the budget for his department, said he is often told the city is in a hard place financially when money keeps building up in the Tourism Board’s fund.

“It seems like a natural action by the council to say yes, this money should indeed come to the general fund, which is hurting,” Zachos said.

Ronald Kopnicki reminded those present that the council voted down proposals from the Tourism Board last year.

“I support the local law. I think a lot of the budget is not sort of like predetermined by law, about where the money goes. It seems sort of odd that just this specific type of tourism marketing would be earmarked while most of the budget is not,” said Mayoral Aide Michael Chameides.

Chameides said the city’s next few budget cycles have not been determined, so it makes sense to give the city some flexibility.

“There’s a lot of other ways the city can support economic development besides tourism marketing specifically,” he said. “There might be other relevant projects the city wants to spend money on or to reduce taxes.”

Time & Space Ltd. Co-director Claudia Bruce said she agrees the money should run through the council, not be separated for this one particular thing, and Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann, co-director of Time & Space Ltd., said she wants to see the funds used for projects on the north side of Hudson.

“I think the lodging tax money should at money should remain with the lodging committee,” Krisal Heinz of Hudson said. “Right now Hudson has tourism. I know they’re a push to bring something else in. I don’t think we have the people that we have right now, and frankly I don’t think we have the skilled labor to draw any other type of business in right now. That being said, this is what we have as our economic engine and I think that we should promote that while we have it.”

First Ward Alderman Rob Bujan echoed Heinz’s sentiment. He asked the council to wait until the new tourism board is in place and new goals have been determined.

“I think we should allow a new tourism board to constitute and come up with a plan. I think that maybe drawing down to .25 instead of 50% of a lodging tax revenue might be a way to sort of wind down the Tourism Board without just pulling the rug out from underneath them,” John Kane of Hudson said.

In the council’s informal meeting following the hearings, four new members were appointed to the Tourism Board to fill vacancies. The appointees are Hannah Black, Selya Graham, Sidney Long and Kate Treacy, whose term will end Dec. 31, 2020.

The one-page law is available for review on the city’s website. The Common Council’s next meeting is Feb. 18.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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