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Essex County raises occupancy tax

Effective June 1, Essex County’s occupancy tax will be 5%, up from 3%.

The occupancy tax, also known as bed tax, is collected on all hotel, motel, bed-and-breakfast and short-term vacation rental stays. The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted to increase the tax by 2% on Monday.

A proposal to increase the tax first surfaced last year, when the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism offered a plan for the new revenue that would’ve seen the money directed to a community enhancement fund for local-level projects to accommodate tourism or mitigate its impacts.

But while the county awaited authorization from the state to increase the tax, Essex County supervisors decided on a different way to split the revenue.

Currently, ROOST receives 95% of the more than $2 million a year generated through the county’s bed tax. The county Treasurer’s Office keeps 5% to cover administrative costs.

Now with the 2% increase, each of Essex County’s 19 towns will receive a minimum of $20,000 each year through the occupancy tax, according to county Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland.

Additional money will be directed to towns where more occupancy tax revenue is collected. For North Elba, Wilmington and Keene, where much of the county’s hotel and hospitality industry is located, this will likely mean more revenue for local-level marketing and tourism promotion.

As of March, Essex County had collected roughly $761,757 in occupancy tax revenue, according to Treasurer Michael Diskin.

Collections were down in March by a few thousand dollars from the same time last year, likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Diskin said the county won’t be able to get a sense of how big of an impact the virus has had on occupancy tax collections until the end of April.

Interest on property taxes

The county Board of Supervisors also authorized a change in property tax collections on Monday.

In May and June, interest on property tax payments — whether for this year or years prior — won’t increase, according to Diskin.

“Whatever you’re paying this month for interest, that interest won’t change any in May and June,” he said. “We’re trying to help the taxpayers how we can.”

Late property tax payments will still have a 5% penalty attached, according to Diskin. He said that penalty couldn’t be waived.

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