Why Centre Co. Commissioners feel increased hotel tax is justified

Local News

Bellefonte, Centre County, Pa- Before Tuesday’s Centre County Commissioners meeting, the commissioners stated that they might not look to double the county’s hotel tax (from two-point-five percent to five percent)… instead seeking an increase less than double the two-point-five percent figure.

But, after gathering more information, the commissioners decided that the full five-percent tax was justified.

“In terms of my standpoint, an additional $137 million of added impact over a number of years, really solidified the impact the tax can have for the community and for the non-profits here in the area,” said Michael Pipe, Chair of the Centre County Commissioners.

Non-profits and other organizations who could benefit from the tax increase, through grants, support the commisioner’s decision to increase the tax.

The commissioners say county hotels are also in favor of the increase because some of the money from the tax will go towards tourism advertising to draw more people to the area.

The commissioners also say the hotels aren’t worried that the increased tax will keep people away, because this hasn’t happened when hotel taxes went up in nearby counties.

“Some other counties surrounding us that had gone to 5%…we didn’t see that the increase hurt them in terms of drawing folks in… it was actually a net positive that added spending that occured,” said Commissioner Pipe.

WTAJ was told by a co-owner of Shaner Hotel Group in State College that a verbal agreement was made between two commissioners and county hotels. According to the co-owner, this verbal agreement is for 20 percent of the new funds generated by the tax increase to be allocated towards economic development for local hotels. 

However, the Centre County Commissioners told WTAJ that no such agreement was made. They say it was made clear to Shaner on multiple occassions from multiple individuals, including Shaner’s lawyer, that legally no funds can be allocated for economic development. All funds will go to the Centre County Visitor’s Bureau.

As previously stated, some of the funds will be spent on tourism advertising. The commissioners say this advertising could help drive more people to the area which could create the potential for more hotel and restaurant jobs.

WTAJ will reach out to Shaner Hotel Group for clarification on the afformentioned verbal agreement the commissioners say is illegal and was never agreed upon.

The commisioners say the tax will also apply to those using booking agents, like Air BNB’s, to find places to stay in the county.

The new tax rate will go into effect April, 1, 2019.

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