York County hotel room tax increase closer to passing [York Daily Record, Pa. :: ]
(York Daily Record (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 07--In 2009, York County commissioners unanimously expressed support for raising the local hotel room tax.
They asked state lawmakers to work on legislation that would let them do it.
The issue, Commissioner Chris Reilly said, became "a political football." It stalled in the General Assembly.
Last week, it moved closer to becoming a reality, as the state House voted 119-80 to approve legislation that would allow York County to raise its local hotel room tax from 3 to 5 percent.
The state Senate approved similar legislation earlier, but still has to approve House changes. Gov. Tom Corbett supports the legislation, House Bill 1177.
The state Senate is expected to consider it this week. If lawmakers approve it, then the issue goes back to county commissioners.
"I'm anxious to vote on it," said York County Commissioner Doug Hoke.
The York County Convention & Visitors Bureau has pushed for the increase, which would bring the county's hotel tax rate in line with neighboring Adams and Lancaster counties. State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said in a news release Wednesday evening that it's estimated that the higher tax would bring in $700,000 more annually to boost tourism, bringing the total collection to $2.2 million.
The CVB's estimates are higher.
The higher rate would bring in an additional $1 million a year and bring the amount collected to about $2.6 million a year, said Anne Druck, the bureau's president.
"This would help us further compete with other destinations that have raised their room tax, and promote York County and increase visitor expenditures and the economic impact they have on our community," Druck said.
Of the roughly $2.6 million a year the CVB said would be collected at the 5 percent level, about $850,000 annually would be used for a program to give grants to local organizations to fund projects that increase tourism to York County, Druck said. That could include capital projects or tourism marketing programs.
A seven-member committee, including representatives from York city, the York County Board of Commissioners, the county's state legislative delegation, the York County Economic Alliance and the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce would decide which projects receive funding. The final details of the grant program are still to be worked out.
Several other areas in Pennsylvania, including the Cumberland Valley area and State College, already have tourism grant programs, Druck said.
The higher tax rate and the grant program have the backing of David Hogg, CEO of Springwood Hospitality, which owns the Hampton Inn & Suites in York Township and the Homewood Suites in Manchester Township.
"It's an excellent move forward for the promotion of tourism in the county," said Hogg, a former chairman of the CVB's board of directors.
Christina McCullough, director of sales and marketing for the Holiday Inn Conference Center of York, in West Manchester Township, said that when she's trying to book sports teams, bus tours and other groups to stay at the hotel, she points out that York County's current 3 percent tax rate is lower than the 5 percent rate in Adams and Lancaster counties.
But McCullough supports raising the rate to 5 percent, provided the additional revenue is used to drive more tourism to York County.
"I would be against it if it didn't go for tourism," she said.
In addition to the tourism grant program, of the approximately $2.6 million the higher room tax would bring in each year, about $360,000 a year would go to the York Expo Center in West Manchester Township, one of the county's largest tourism venues, the bureau said in a news release.
The CVB itself would see an increase of about $50,000 a year in its allocation for tourism promotion, which is about $1.4 million currently.
Contact Ed Mahon at 717-771-2089.
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