Bed Tax Attracts Tourists
Chamber Receives County Bed Tax
Story by John Thomas
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are dependent on tourists. The ski areas bring in the winter multitudes. But in the summer the Chamber of Commerce lures out-of-towners to our Village with the many festivals it sponsors. The summer months are now as busy as the winter. Without the influx of money, our esteemed visitors bring into our community; we would not have the nice stores or fine restaurants we enjoy. Not all residents realize it, but the tourist who stay in the hotels and B&B’s all pay a bed tax to the county. Unlike many of our tax dollars that are paid to the government and seem to disappear; a portion of the bed tax is poured back into our community. According to the Cattaraugus County website; “A portion of the bed tax is intended to provide grants for advertising and promoting various new or expanded tourism events, unique festivals, attractions, and experiences that will attract more visitors for extended stays, for overnight visits and for day getaways.”
In January, the Chamber of Commerce will receive $68,000 in bed taxes to promote chamber events. Those moneys represent a percentage of bed taxes paid to the county in 2016. It takes about a year for the county to complete the accounting for the entire county. “That’s down from about $75,000 we received last year, because (in 2016) we had kind of a slow winter in the county.” That’s Brian McFadden, Executive Director of the Chamber. The arraignment is part of the three-year contract the Chamber signed with the county. Under the agreement, the funds are intended to support the advertising the Chamber creates to promote its various events. “There’s no operating costs, no festival costs, it’s all advertising.” He goes on to explain there are two categories of communities the funds are meant to help. Group A includes Ellicottville, Olean and Salamanca. These are municipalities that have a chamber of commerce with full-time employees. Group B includes smaller towns or villages, organizations, and even individuals who want to promote one-time or special events designed to bring in out-of-town traffic. As part of the contract, the chamber must provide evidence the bed tax funds received went to advertising an event. The chamber provides the state with copies of invoices, cashed checks, and a copy of the ad. “Whether that’s broadcast media, radio, print whatever,” McFadden adds.
The county’s payments are divided into two sections. The Chamber is about to get the first payment for 2018. When those funds are spent, the Chamber will provide an interim report confirming the ad spending. “They go through them (the ads) before they give us the second half (of the funds).” Looking to this year, Mr. McFadden points out: “This year the collections are way better than they were in 2017.” The more people come to town for events, the more bed taxes are collected, the Chamber’s budget for advertising goes up, even more, people come to town, and the more our high-end stores and restaurants thrive. It’s a cycle that benefits everyone. The Director concludes: “It’s a pretty simple system, it works well.”