A couple and their child visit a vendor at the May 5, 2012 Adirondack Adventure Festival in North Creek, which was sponsored by the Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce. The 2012 festival received $7,500 in Warren County occupancy tax money from the town of Johnsburg.
With various groups in the town of Johnsburg competing for tourism-project funding through the Warren County occupancy tax program in 2013, many here want to know: What is the occupancy tax, and how does the funding work?
Since it was established in 2003, Warren County has charged tourists a 4 percent occupancy tax (a.k.a. bed tax) for renting a room during their stay.
A hotel or motel — according to the law — is defined as any facility providing lodging on an overnight basis, including places commonly known as “bed and breakfast,” “inn,” “housekeeping cottages with four or more units” and “tourist” facilities.
These hospitality properties must file their occupancy taxes for the same quarterly periods and on the same dates as returns for New York state sales and use tax.
The occupancy tax is administered and collected by the county treasurer’s office. No more than 10 percent of the proceeds are allowed to be used for administering the program. The balance is given out to groups throughout the county for tourism projects.
“The revenues derived from such tax,” the law states, “shall be allocated to enhance the general economy of the County of Warren, and its city, towns and villages through the promotion of tourist activities, conventions, trade shows, special events and other directly-related and supported activities.”
Rounds of funding come from two sources: 1) the county and 2) the county’s municipalities. Therefore, groups in the town of Johnsburg can apply for funding straight from the county, through the town or both. Yet each has its own application process and set of rules and priorities.
“When we first started doing this, the towns were pretty haphazard in how they did it,” said Johnsburg Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow. “And I think we were one of the first towns to set any type of criteria for awards at all. And it’s evolving.”
On the county level, all applications for funding are judged by the Warren County Occupancy Tax Committee. Emphasis is placed on the following criteria:
•Number of nights generated
•Potential economic impact of the event
•Month that the event will take place
•Number of days the event will be held
•Number of years Warren County has contributed to the event
Funding for the 2013 projects is expected to be awarded this month.
In the town of Johnsburg, all applications for funding are judged by the Town of Johnsburg Occupancy Tax Committee. The newest committee members were appointed on Aug. 7 by the Town Board: Town Councilman Peter Olesheski, chairman; Mark Schmale, Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce Board president and employee of Whitewater Challengers; Richard Carlson; Trina Riedinger; and Bernadette Speach, executive director of the Tannery Pond Community Center. The committee ranks each application based on a set of criteria.
Town applications for the 2013 projects were due Oct. 31, and funding was awarded Dec. 4 (see page 2 for the 2013 grants). The committee makes recommendations, and the Town Board makes final approval.
“In Johnsburg, we started out as best we could to use it for purposes of promotion of the town, heads in beds, however you want to phrase it,” Supervisor Vanselow said.
Applicants may be:
•A community non-profit or service organization;
•A business group which promotes an entire category of businesses or all businesses in the community;
•A group of community-minded folks with a worthy idea.
Below are some of the town’s occupancy tax application rules.
•Projects should promote and attract tourism in the Town of Johnsburg.
•Operational costs cannot be covered by occupancy tax funding (salaries, overhead, etc.).
•Projects must be all-inclusive of the community.
•Funding may only be granted for the same request up to four times and each year the same request will be diminished by 25 percent.
•Organizations may request increased funding for similar projects/events in subsequent years, however the organization must show that the event/project they are sponsoring is significantly improved or provides increased benefit to the community over previous years.
•If an organization is asking for additional funding for a previously funded project/event, they must include the earlier project/event budget showing how the awarded occupancy tax was used with the new application. If the former project is not complete by the current year’s due date, the organization must submit a status report along with projected expenses.
For 2013, the town of Johnsburg expects to have about $42,769 to spend on its 2013 occupancy tax funding for tourism-related projects, according to Cherie Ferguson, secretary to the Johnsburg supervisor. Of that, two-thirds ($28,513) would be allocated for the committee’s applications, and one-third ($14,256) would be allocated to the Town Board for “discretionary” spending.
Committee grants 2012
In 2012, the committee awarded the following occupancy tax grants:
•Business Alliance, $4,305, Cruise Nights;
•Wevertown Fire Company, $700, Haunted House fundraiser;
•North Country Hardship Fund, $1,250, Wayne Stock V;
•Our Town Theatre Group, $360, Seagle Music Colony performance;
•North Creek Farmers’ Market, $250, brunch fundraiser;
•North Creek Depot Museum, $1,000, Roosevelt wall;
•North Creek Depot Museum, $750, Rail Fair;
•Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce, $7,500, Adventure Festival;
•Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce, $1,500, Centurion bicycle touring event;
•Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce, $300, The Exchange opening;
•Johnsburg Fine Arts, $3,360, North Creek Mosaic Project;
•Business Alliance, $2,750, Music By the River concert series;
•and Dollars for Scholars, $500, Race the Train.
Discretionary spending 2012
In addition, the Johnsburg Town Board spent some of its 2012 occupancy tax as part of its discretionary spending. The 2012 awards were:
•$10,000, North Creek Business Alliance shuttle;
•$5,500, Fourth of July fireworks;
•$3,000, Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce annual promotion contract;
•$3,000, snow removal;
•and $1,200, Beautification Committee.
Applications for occupancy tax funding are located on the Warren County website (http://warrencountyny.gov/treasurer/bedtax.php) and town of Johnsburg website (http://www.johnsburgny.com/johnsburg-hamlets.asp).
Project ranking process
(Town of Johnsburg application)
The Occupancy Tax Committee will assess each application and score it based on the following criteria:
•Attractive/professional work potential
•Good distribution plan
•Fosters community image
•Delivers tourists into businesses
•Welcomes and/or adds comfort for visitors
•Enhances community image and/or spaces
•Long-term maintenance and sustainability addressed
•Appearance (design, color, shape, size) appropriate for space
•Suitability to location
Event or Things to Do
•Number of visitor days and nights
•Relevancy of activity to potential market
•Good marketing plan
•Spin-off to businesses or hamlets
Examples of fundable projects
(Town of Johnsburg application)
-Distributes information about the community
-Enhances the image of the town
•Streetscapes/sidewalk plantings/parking lot improvements
-Provides something to do within the community
•Enhance recreational attractions/create trials
•Create outdoor theater
•Promote special events