Occupancy tax receipts beat projection

Gwen Chamberlain

A report prepared by the Yates County Legislature as requested by the Yates County Chamber of Commerce reveals that more money was spent on defending a lawsuit against the county’s occupancy tax law than was allocated to any of the three tourism promotion agencies.

But it also reveals that more money than expected was brought in during the tax’s first year. And Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy says the revenue from the tax helped the legislature prevent an increase in the local tax levy.

The report outlines the amount of money taken in by the county during the first year the occupancy tax was collected in Yates County in addition to where the funds were allocated.

The county received a total of $285,966.82 in 2008 through the tax, which is levied on hotels, motels, bed & breakfast inns and vacation rentals.

That’s more than twice the revenue that was anticipated by the county in the first year. The 2008 county budget called for an expected $125,000.

The county spent $69,428.88 to defend the law when it was challenged in a lawsuit filed by a group of vacation property owners and vacation property management companies.

Most of the tax receipts —$148,826.43 — came from motels or hotels.

Another $95,514.40 came from private property owners, or vacation rentals, while $41,625.99 came from bed and breakfast inns.

After the legal costs and $12,905.94 for administrative costs were deducted from the total receipts, the county allocated $107,423 of the receipts  for tourism promotion.

The Yates County Chamber of Commerce gets $57,238 while the Finger Lakes Association gets $11,560 and Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing gets $38,625.

That leaves $96,808.32 to go into the county’s general fund.

Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy says the occupancy tax is one of the reasons why the tax levy did not increase.

Update (March 4, 2009): Clarified to more clearly represent the comment from Administrator Sarah Purdy.