Yates forms group to oversee use of bed tax

Gwen Chamberlain

The Yates County Legislature has adopted a new procedure for deciding the distribution of county funds for tourism promotion.

The new process will be coordinated by the Yates County Chamber of Commerce as the county’s tourism promotion agency. A new Tourism Advisory Committee will consist of:

• Two members of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors,

• Three members from lodging businesses (one each from hotel/motel, bed & breakfast inn and vacation rentals)

• One member from the legislature

• The county administrator

• Chamber of Commerce President

The group will be responsible for making recommendations to the legislature for allocating tourism promotion funds.

When he introduced the resolution for the procedure, Timothy Dennis, chairman of the finance committee, said the TAC concept grew from discussions in the Occupancy Tax Committee and the Finance Committee.

“We need an organized procedure... The Chamber of Commerce came up with a proposal after we asked for it,” he explained.

Dennis said he feels it’s most logical for the TPA to handle the process. As the TPA, the Chamber of Commerce will provide an agency-by-agency breakdown of the proposed funding levels based on 50 percent of the collected occupancy tax revenues from the previous fiscal year.

At the April 5 Finance Committee meeting, legislators discussed the concept with Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Linehan, who said the TAC will establish a formal process for organizations to seek funding.

Linehan said the focus will be on funding activities that will bring overnight visitors, adding, “Philosophically, since the revenues are coming from the bed tax, in good conscience, we will need to focus on putting heads in beds.“It would have to be a well-thought out plan to bring tourists,” he said, adding that the TAC will monitor the results and report back to the legislature.

The funding recommendations would be provided to Budget Officer Sarah Purdy in time to be included in her budget proposal in the late summer.

Right now, the legislature allocates tourism promotion funds to the Chamber of Commerce, which focuses on promoting Yates County, Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, which promotes the entire Finger Lakes Region and Finger Lakes Wine Country Marketing, which promotes Yates, Schuyler, Chemung and Steuben Counties.

The legislature will ultimately control the funding through the annual budget workshops.