February 2, 2010
Occupancy tax revenues rise
Jets camp, new Greek Peak lodge boost funding from 5 percent tax
Cortland County is on track to receive more occupancy tax than was budgeted for in 2009 and officials are anticipating new hotels will help the county exceed the amount budgeted for 2010 as well.
Final figures are not yet available for 2009, but according to Deputy Treasurer Carolyn Kennedy, the county has already received $354,382.15.
The county budgeted $350,000 for the year.
The county is budgeted to receive $325,000 in 2010 but Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jim Dempsey is hopeful the county will exceed this.
Dempsey said the December opening of Greek Peak’s new Hope Lake Lodge Hotel and Indoor Waterpark in Virgil gave the county a boost.
“It was a couple percentage points ahead of the same time last year,” Dempsey said of the month’s occupancy tax revenues, though he did not know the overall figure.
Kennedy said the final payments are due Feb. 15.
Occupancy tax is a 5 percent fee that visitors of motels and hotels in Cortland County must pay. This money is allocated for marketing and advertising to promote tourism in the county.
The Occupancy Tax Allocation Committee meets annually each summer to determine which entities and agencies receive the money, Dempsey said.
The planned Holiday Inn Express in Cortland will also help bring in added revenue in 2010, Dempsey said. He said it is on track to open in the summer.
Dempsey said in prudent planning, former County Administrator Scott Schrader anticipated receiving about $325,000 in occupancy tax for 2010. As a result, when planning the 2010 allocations to various agencies supported by the tax, the committee decided to cut about 7 percent of the 2009 figures, evenly across the board.
“The committee decided in fairness to everyone, all of the allocations for 2009 would be reduced by 7 percent for 2010,” Dempsey said.
Any excess that is received would be put into an occupancy tax reserve fund, which could carry over into following years or which the Legislature could decide to allocate for a specific purpose this year.
Dempsey said about 17 agencies apply yearly for funding, including local festivals in the county. Among the benefiting agencies are the 1890 House Museum, the Suggett House Museum and Cortland County Historical Society, the Cortland Repertory Theater, the Brockway Truck Show, and the Homer Center for the Arts as well as the Central New York Maple Festival and other attractions.
Kennedy said that in order to use the reserve fund, the county Legislature would have to allocate the money by way of a resolution.
This was done in 2008, when the Legislature allocated approximately $11,000 for tourism promotion programs at the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Dempsey said the summer committee meeting will determine how to allocate 2011 funding.
The strong ski season and the New York Jets training camp, which was in Cortland for three weeks last summer, should also help the 2009 occupancy tax revenue, Dempsey said.
“When winter comes early in the Northeast, it gets everybody thinking about skiing and that helps us. People say, ‘Look there’s snow in our yard, there must be tons in Cortland, let’s go to Greek Peak,’ ” Dempsey said.
Kennedy and Interim County Auditor Jane Sharpe said it is impossible to determine how much the Jets camp contributed to the occupancy tax because there is no way of telling which visitors stayed at hotels for that purpose.
According to reports at the time, the hospitality industry saw a 12 percent increase in business over the summer.
Greek Peak President Al Kryger did not return phone calls for comment by press time.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe