Bellefonte, Centre County, Pa- Tuesday, the Centre County Commissioners adopted an ordinance to double the county’s hotel tax from two-point-five percent to five percent.
The ordinance was approved unanimously by all three commissioners, but a resident from the county expressed concern with the tax increase before it was approved.
A resident from Halfmoon Township told the commissioners he thinks this tax is nothing but a cash grab.
But, the commissioners say the tax will have a small impact on county residents, while making a big difference for the county’s visitors bureau… which awards grant money to local organizations.
“I thought it would be useful if I went over last year’s grant recipents,” said Commissioner Steven Dershem.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Dershem went on to list the nearly 40 organizations from Aaronsburg to Philipsburg, and everywhere in-between, supported by grants that are funded by the county’s hotel tax.
A county resident respectfully dissented the tax, believing that it is not responsible and will line the pockets of the Centre County visitors bureau.
“You’re basically doubling their take…you’re picking the winner here. And I understand that there’s a lot of grant recipients, but they then have to jump through the hoops to get their cut of the action,” he said.
Michael Pipe, Chair of the Commisioners, responded:
“For a lot of these organizations, that put on these events. They spend all year fundraising, going out soliciting donations from folks in the community. This allows them to spend more time on the services they provide, rather than fundraising,” Pipe said.
Commisioner Mark Higgins went on to address how the tax would impact Centre County residents.
“If you’re a Centre County resident, you’re probably not going to pay this tax. You already live here… you’re probably not going to rent a hotel room 5 miles from your house,” Higgins said.
Other questions were raised before the tax increase was approved, including: How would the tax impact the county’s competitiveness to host conventions at hotels?
The commissioners said that the most popular places for conventions, both worldwide and statewide, have higher hotel taxes, compared to the newly approved five percent tax rate in the county. They added that conventions consider many other factors beyond tax rate when selecting a host hotel location.
The commissioners said another key selling point behind the tax was jobs.
“This could quite possibly create hundreds of new jobs in Centre County at our hotels and restaurants,” said Commissioner Higgins.
The new tax rate will go into effect April, 1, 2019.