Bed tax hearings Thursday

Franklin County legislators are asking people in the south end of the county who have questions or concerns about a proposed bed tax to come to public hearings Thursday in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake.

A committee of lodging owners from around the county, along with a few legislators and other county representatives, put together a proposal for a 5 percent occupancy fee on stays in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and other vacation rentals.

Only stays of less than 30 days would be subject to the tax.

The money raised from the tax would be used to market the area to potential tourists. The proposed law sets up a Tourism Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from various interested parties, that would plan how the money is spent, though its spending plan would need to be approved by the county Board of Legislators.

The Bed Tax Committee presented its proposal, modeled on other bed taxes from around the state, to county legislators in December, and legislators were mostly happy with the proposal. They hope to approve it later this month and send it before February to Albany for approval.

Franklin and Hamilton counties are the only two of the 62 counties in the state to not have a bed tax. Essex County recently considered increasing its 3 percent bed tax to 5 percent.

Franklin County legislators will hold another hearing on the bed tax on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 5:30 p.m. in Malone at the county courthouse.

The county normally holds hearings only in the north end of the county, or in Malone and Saranac Lake for the annual budget hearing. But legislators decided that since the aim is to gather input from the people who would be most affected by the tax, there should be one in Tupper Lake as well, since that town is trying to shift its economic focus toward tourism.