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UNEQUAL TREATMENT--NY LETS SOME LOCALITIES TAX HOTEL GUESTS BUT WON'T LET GREENBURGH AND OTHERS
Release Date: June 12, 2014

WHY WON'T THE NY STATE LEGISLATURE LET GREENBURGH REDUCE YOUR  PROPERTY TAXES AND GENERATE INCOME FROM NON RESIDENTS WHO STAY IN HOTELS WHEN THEY LET OTHER LOCALITIES TAX HOTEL GUESTS?  UNEQUAL TREATMENT FOR NO REASON!

 

White Plains collects $1 million a year in hotel taxes...

 New Rochelle projects $280,000 from the hotel tax

Rye, with a population of  fewer than 20,000 people, expects to take in $150,000 from the hotel tax this year.

 

Rye Brook, which has about 10,000 residents, has two marquee hotels in the Hilton Westchester and Doral Arrowwood. It collects 3 percent of its entire annual revenue from the occupancy tax, $630,000

 

Westchester County expects $5.5 million, $300,000 more than last year, to be taken in from its own hotel tax, which makes up less than 1 percent of the county’s budget revenue.

The following article appeared in the Westchester Business Journal...

New hotel taxes for Westchester unlikely to be approved

Municipalities can only charge a hotel tax if they receive approval from the state Legislature, and the village of Mamaroneck is among a dozen municipalities in the county whose hotel taxes are rejected each year. Rosenblum said he doesn’t expect the state to grant authority for a hotel tax to any communities in Westchester or elsewhere before the legislative session ends this month.

“Of course it’s frustrating, but hopefully one of these times it gets through,” Rosenblum, a Republican, said.

There are only two hotels in the village of Mamaroneck, The Mamaroneck Motel and Vincent & Sons Motel, which have 50 rooms between them. But Rosenblum said the village could collect $30,000 a year if it charges a 3 percent occupancy tax on bookings there, and even more could come, with talks about building a third hotel downtown in what is now an industrial corridor.

“It would be a really nice hit on the income,” he said. The village’s total budget for the year is roughly $33 million.

New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains and Rye Brook have their own 3 percent hotel tax, which is charged on top of Westchester County’s 3 percent tax. Yet communities like Mamaroneck, North Castle and Harrison continually see their efforts to charge a tax met with resistance in the state Legislature. Even Yonkers, Westchester’s largest city, does not have its own hotel tax; it is among the communities asking for the tax this year. Yonkers is seeing interest from hotel developers and in February ground was broken on a 155-unit hotel at Cross County Shopping Center.

State Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat, said it didn’t make sense to allow a hotel tax for some communities and not for others. “There’s no principle, there’s no reason, on equity, that these communities shouldn’t get the same authority,” he said.

The state Senate, which is run by a coalition of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats, has been resistant not only to the hotel tax but to most newly proposed taxes in the last few years, particularly since Gov. Andrew Cuomo came into office in 2011. The last Westchester hotel tax approved was in 2010, when the village of Rye Brook became the first government to get the authority that was neither a city nor county. Since then, several hotel taxes have been renewed, but the Senate hasn’t taken up new proposals recently even as they found support in the Assembly. The issue isn’t partisan on the local level, with several Republican-led governments asking for taxing authority, including Harrison’s all-Repulican Town Board.

Latimer, who spent 20 years in the hotel industry, said what was confusing about the Senate’s position was that it isn’t a new tax, in that it exists in a number of communities already. “These folks want to be able to say they didn’t raise any taxes,” he said. “But it’s not me passing the tax, it’s me giving them the authority to pass it.”

Paul Feiner, supervisor of Greenburgh, said the town and its six villages could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in nonproperty tax revenues if they had their own hotel taxes. What makes the tax so appealing to local governments is that it is a revenue stream that doesn’t necessitate increasing property taxes at a time when labor costs soar and the state caps tax levy increases annually (this year’s cap was set at 1.66 percent).

“It’s frustrating,” Feiner, a Democrat, said. “Albany wants us to comply with the tax cap but they are not giving us the tools we need that would enable us to keep property taxes low without impacting quality of life and services.”

Politically, the hotel tax offers a benefit to local elected officials because it is charged to transient visitors rather than residents, whose property tax fatigue could be directed at elected officials in the polling booth. Fiscally, the hotel tax could have a major impact, depending on the size of the communities and the reputation of their hotels.

White Plains expects to collect $1 million in hotel taxes in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to its $176.1 million proposed budget. New Rochelle projected $280,000 from the tax in its current budget after collecting $212,000 in 2013.

Rye, with a budget of $44.9 million and population of fewer than 20,000 people, expects to take in $150,000 from the hotel tax this year.

Rye Brook, which has about 10,000 residents, has two marquee hotels in the Hilton Westchester and Doral Arrowwood. It collects 3 percent of its entire annual revenue from the occupancy tax, $630,000 for an entire budget for 2014-15 of about $18 million.

Westchester County expects $5.5 million, $300,000 more than last year, to be taken in from its own hotel tax, which makes up less than 1 percent of the county’s budget revenue.

Dan Conte, president of the 31-member Westchester Hotel Association, said the industry was “crawling back” to prerecession numbers but facing increasing costs such as employee health care and additional fees.

He said the hotel tax and other taxes like it were “sneaky taxes” that equated to town officials and legislators “getting their hands in the pockets of local businesses.” Conte, the general manager of Tarrytown’s Westchester Marriott, said the hotel industry continues to be singled out year after year even though the market in Westchester is still recovering back to health.

Although it seemed a long shot that new hotel taxes would be approved by the Legislature this year, Conte was sure the discussions would begin anew when the calendar flips to 2015. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said.

 

Paul Feiner

 

Last year the NYS Assembly, thanks to Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, authorized Greenburgh to have a hotel tax but the legislation failed to win approval in the NYS Senate.

 

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