CANTON - A new system may be set up to make sure all overnight lodging facilities in St. Lawrence County, including campgrounds, collect and turn in the 3 percent county bed tax to the countys coffers as required.
County legislators are concerned they maybe losing out on a substantial amount of revenue because the law that established the occupancy tax lacks a strong enforcement mechanism.
Some lodging facilities may not be aware theyre supposed to be collecting 3 percent tax per room, per night from their overnight guests.
The tax has generated an average of $360,000 annually for the past three years Others may be under reporting or underpaying the county Treasurers Office, which collects the tax quarterly.
Lawmakers are discussing a proposal that would make the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, 101 Main St., responsible for registering new and existing lodging businesses including hotels, motels, bed and breakfast operations and camping facilities.
Much of the work would involve identifying businesses that have not been collecting the bed tax and educating them.
In exchange, the county would increase its funding to the chamber by 2 percent each year over the $183,366 allocated for this year. The chamber would also receive 50 percent of any growth in the bed tax revenue over the baseline amount of $360,000.
Its an interesting proposal that might help bring additional bed tax in, County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire told legislators at their last Finance Committee meeting.
County Chamber Director Patricia L. McKeown said her agency could gather information because it already has relationships with area hotels and other lodging facilities
We dont really have a good handle on who is paying the bed tax. Its been on the honor system for a long time, Mrs. McKeown said. There is no bed and breakfast cop going around counting the pillows.
Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton, said its his understanding that several businesses are not turning in bed tax revenues to the county.
Ive spoken to people who pay the bed tax and they were of the opinion that a number arent paying, Mr. Putman said.
Legislator Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, said he would like county officials to examine how other counties enforce their bed tax collections.
I think we need to investigate what other counties are doing to put teeth into their laws, Mr. Parker said.
Legislator Donald A. Peck, R-Gouverneur, said legislators could be policing their own legislative districts to make sure that lodging establishments are turning in the bed tax money.
The proposal is expected to be discussed again at the 5:30 p.m. Dec. 16 Finance Committee meeting.