Penn Yan pushes for tax sharing

Gwen Chamberlain
Penn Yan officials say the new owner of this waterfront parcel on Lake Street is planning to build a hotel, and they want to reap occupancy tax revenues from lodging businesses inside the village.

The Penn Yan Village Board has begun the process to establish a village occupancy tax and ramp up an effort to lure Yates County officials into negotiations to share sales tax revenues with other jurisdictions.

At the board's Aug. 20 regular meeting, Trustee David Reeve cast the lone "no" vote on a motion to send a letter to the Yates County Legislature with a specific request for the county to share occupancy tax revenues generated within the village boundaries — at hotels and bed & breakfast inns. The motion, offered by Trustee Mike Christensen, also included wording to authorize Village Attorney Ed Brockman and Village Clerk/Treasurer Gary Meeks to begin the process to establish a village occupancy tax.

Christensen said the intent is to "get the ball rolling" toward action on the county's part. Earlier in August, Christensen, Reeve and Mayor Robert Church attended the county's Finance Committee meeting to explain the village's interest in seeking a share of sales and occupancy tax revenues.

Village officials say the development of two new hotels in the village will put additional burdens on village services, but without a share of the occupancy tax and overall sales tax revenues the village will not benefit.

Christensen said he and other village and county representatives recently met with developer Chris Iversen to discuss his preliminary plans to develop a 74-room three to four-story hotel on the property formerly owned by Robert Pfuntner on Lake Street near Red Jacket Park.

"We should realize all of the occupancy tax," said Christensen, adding, "The sooner we start that process for the relief of our taxpayers, the better."

Reeve said he would rather see the village get a share of the county occupancy tax. "They agreed to sit down and discuss (sharing) with us," he said, later adding, "It's just been a couple of weeks. We heard concessions and agreement... All I think we're doing now is showing impatience. It doesn't respect what's happened over this month."

"Who knows what two hotels will cost electric customers?" asked Christensen, adding, "Residential taxpayers will get the short end of the stick. If we start the process, we can always stop it."

Church said he doesn't want to take this step, but added, "Hopefully, the county will give us some kind of option. I don't want to add to the taxes that are collected in this village."

Brockman said some kind of analysis needs to be done to establish a rate and to determine if an additional occupancy tax will be detrimental to the numbers of people coming to the village.

A state assembly bill giving the village and town of Mamaroneck the right to collect a 3 percent occupancy tax was approved by the assembly and has been passed on to the Senate Rules Committee. Mamoraneck is in Westchester County, where 85 percent of the revenue for a 3 percent occupancy tax is used to meet the needs of the homeless while 15 percent is used for "the purposes of tourism."

The law that created Yates County's 4 percent occupancy tax generates revenue that is split equally between the county's general fund and tourism promotion efforts.

Other business at the Aug. 20 village board meeting included:

• CONTRACT: The board approved a three-year contract with Council 82 representing the Police Benevolent Association that gives employees a 1 percent increase in 2013, 2 percent in 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015. The contract, retroactive to June 1, calls for new employees as of June 31 to pay 30 percent of their health insurance premiums. Christensen said contract negotiations with CSEA and PBA members have been courteous interactions that saved a considerable amount of legal fees by negotiating locally.

• RECOGNITION: Christensen, as chairman of the Public Safety Committee, made a presentation commending Penn Yan Police Chief Mark Hulse, Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook, New York State Police Sgt. Steve Neuberger and New York State Police Senior Investigator Joseph Kelly in recognition of their work to arrest and prosecute several individuals connected to drug sales in the village.

• SIGNS: The issue of temporary signs that have been improperly placed between sidewalks and streets was referred to the Planning and Development Committee for recommendations. Christensen said the issue came up in the Public Safety Committee meeting. He suggested notices could be included in future municipal bills to educate the public about the village code addressing temporary signs.

• SURPLUS PROPERTY: The board declared land on the northern side of East Elm Street between Champlin Avenue and the municipal parking lot behind Main Street, and immediately west of the Wagner Restaurant, as surplus property, and agreed to seek an appraisal on the property's value.

• EXECUTIVE SESSION: The board entered executive session to discuss an employee issue and legal counsel.

• MEETING: The board's next meeting will be held Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.