By Guy Leonard, The County Times (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (September 29, 2011)—Commissioner Todd Morgan (R-Lexington Park) told business owners and entrepreneurs Tuesday at the annual state of the county luncheon that he intends to push state officials for an increase in the hotel tax here in St. Marys as a way to bolster revenues.
Morgan said that the tax was aimed at the many defense contractor and federal government visitors who come to work on programs at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and not at the expense of St. Marys County taxpayers.
Morgan said that the majority of hotel space in the county during the week is booked by such visitors and an increase the occupancy tax could help fill the countys dwindling coffers. Some in the business community were not so sure, noting that such a proposal Morgan made during last years budget cycle did not make much progress.
Bill Scarafia, executive director of the St. Marys Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event, said that it was uncertain whether such a tax increase would hurt or help hospitality businesses. Im sure it will go over with residents because they dont stay there and hotels wont mind because they wont pay it, Scarafia said. But for leisure travelers every dollar counts.
Scarafia said that hotel and motel owners have worked hard in a down economy to make their rates more attractive to leisure travelers, and have seen some success since the federal government and contractors appear to be less willing to pay for extended stays.
During the weekdays, hotels were full, he said, but on weekends occupancy fell off dramatically and that had steadily been changing, Scarafia said. If an increase in the occupancy tax happened here, he said, neighboring counties like Calvert could see a windfall of customers looking for lower prices.
Thats [increased occupancy] what weve been working on for three years, Scarafia said.
The need for more revenue streams in the county continues to be a pressing issue as county commissioners must deal with a projected $8 million budget deficit.
Commissioner Lawrence D. Jarboe (R-Golden Beach) said that more cuts and consolidations were necessary within the budget and county government departments and questioned the need for funding of the completion of FDR Boulevard and the detention center expansion.
He opposed levying any more taxes, especially any increases in property taxes.
Government should be making do just like businesses are and just like families are, Jarboe said. Nows the time to continue looking at cuts.