COOPERSTOWN -- Otsego County lawmakers are expected to open discussions today on a plan that, if enacted, could eventually drive more than $200,000 in hotel bed tax money to the communities that generate the bulk of the revenue.
The issue of how to divvy up the $1.2 million in bed tax revenue has been a thorny one this year for the Otsego County Board of Representatives. The panel has had to struggle to keep the increase in the 2012 county budget for 2012 below the state-mandated 2 percent cap at a time when demand for social services has been rising and roads were damaged by late summer storms.
With several county agency's facing sizable cuts, the representatives three weeks ago nixed a proposal that would have sent $100,000 in bed tax revenue to the village of Cooperstown -- by all accounts, the leading producer of those tax dollars for the county.
Under a tentative plan being touted by county Treasurer Daniel Crowell, a 25 percent slice of the total bed tax revenue would be split among municipalities that generate the lion's share of that revenue: the village of Cooperstown and the towns of Otsego, Oneonta, Milford and Hartwick.
The county would keep the other 75 percent.
Rep. Rich Murphy, D-Oneonta, one of the legislators who opposed funneling money to Cooperstown from the 2012 budget, said he was open to the idea outlined by Crowell.
"If we had something that was equitable (for the other towns), I'd be more supportive," Murphy said.
Given the board's reluctance to part with money for Cooperstown in the coming year and the late stage of the budget production effort, Crowell acknowledged it is more likely now that the discussion will be about how to allocate bed tax revenue for 2013 rather than for 2012.
Reps. Jim Johnson, R-Otsego, and Board Chairman Floyd "Sam" Dubben, R-Middlefield, both have been staunch supporters of pumping bed tax funds into Cooperstown to support village renovation and enhancement projects. Both said they will argue today against a resolution that would strip the draft 2012 county budget of $100,000 in one-time funding for Cooperstown.
"It makes sense to invest in our greatest economic engine," Johnson said. He said The Otesaga alone accounts for approximately 10 percent of all bed tax revenue collected in the county. "You've got a population of 1,800 people paying for an economy of 62,000, and its not fair to rest all that on the property taxpayers of Cooperstown."
Dubben said that Otsego County has significantly lower property taxes than surrounding counties because of its yearly sales tax linked to Cooperstown tourism.
Crowell, acknowledging there are "merits" to both sides of the argument over a county allocation for Cooperstown, said his plan represents "a structural solution that might be palatable for 2013." He admitted it was "late in the game" to try to market the idea for 2012, with the board poised to adopt a final budget as early as today.
The tentative budget for 2012 calls for $117.9 million in spending. The draft blueprint would increase property taxes by 1.81 percent while reducing expenditures for foster care, emergency services, senior citizen programs and road repairs to offset rising state-mandated costs to support the Medicaid program.