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North Elba spreads bed tax wealth to local projects

The view from Cobble Hill includes views of the High Peaks, Mirror Lake, the Olympic ski jumps and downtown Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

LAKE PLACID — The first-ever round of funding from the town of North Elba’s new Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund (LEAF) is going to 17 local organizations hoping to either improve residents’ quality of life, protect the environment, preserve the town’s history or provide relief to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The North Elba Town Council approved a slate of funding recipients during its regular meeting on Tuesday. Altogether, $560,265 will be disbursed in this inaugural round of LEAF funding.

This comes more than two years after Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO James McKenna first asked the Essex County Board of Supervisors to consider raising the county occupancy tax by 2% to fund town-level projects.

After receiving authorization from the state Legislature to raise the tax, the county Board of Supervisors voted to raise the county’s occupancy tax from 3% to 5% last year. It went into effect on June 1, 2020.

The occupancy tax, also known as a “bed tax,” is collected on all hotel, motel, bed-and-breakfast and short-term vacation rental stays. The town of North Elba — which includes the village of Lake Placid, part of the village of Saranac Lake and the hamlet of Ray Brook — has more visitor accommodations than other towns in this county and typically generates the most occupancy tax revenue for Essex County.

Of the county’s 5% occupancy tax, 3% of the revenue goes to ROOST, minus a portion that goes to the county for administrative costs. The remaining 2% goes into an enhancement fund that directs money to each of Essex County’s 18 towns for local projects.

The organizations that will receive funding from North Elba include:

¯ The Essex County Industrial Development Agency, $225,000 for small business relief

¯ Lake Placid Center for the Arts, $65,000 for a three-week outdoor summer arts festival

¯ The village of Saranac Lake, $57,700 for phase one of redesigning Baldwin Park, which contains tennis courts and a Korea-Vietnam war memorial

¯ Lake Placid Elementary School, $50,000 for the purchase of new playground equipment; plus $5,000 for a summer reading program for students grades 6-12 at the Lake Placid Central School District

¯ Adirondack Land Trust, $38,850 to establish trailhead and improve signage for the Cobble Hill trail

¯ Lake Placid Community Beautification Association, $30,000 to purchase a truck and water-conserving pots

¯ AuSable River Association, $16,378 to fund the first year of a five-year funding commitment for regular water quality and biological monitoring of Mirror Lake

¯ Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, $15,000 to allow the organization to continue collecting oral stories and photos of the town’s history, plus a digital catalog

¯ The town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid, $15,000 to consolidate and update the town and village websites

¯ Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service, $10,000 to build a new, accessible bathroom

¯ Barkeater Trails Alliance, $10,000 to expand its trails program season and for signage on the Jackrabbit Trail

¯ Mirror Lake Watershed Association, $5,040 for an invasive species study program

¯ The Lake Placid Rotary Club, $5,000 to construct three bus shelters

¯ Lake Placid Community Day, $5,000 to purchase a tent for events

¯ Lake Placid Land Conservancy, $3,746 to purchase trail cameras to monitor wildlife in North Elba

¯ Zonta Club of the Adirondacks, $3,551.25 to produce domestic violence assistance posters.

As a condition to accepting funding, each organization will be required to submit a grant report.

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