QUEENSBURY — Want occupancy tax funding for your event? This year, Queensbury is going to evaluate every project against specific measures.
There has been controversy in the past about the Town Board’s choices, with some hotel owners complaining that the tax they collect is not always spent well.
The 4 percent tax is paid per night by those who stay in hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, and Warren County is working to get Airbnb to collect the tax as well.
Each town is supposed to use the tax revenue to draw more visitors to the area. It has been used to support programs ranging from sporting events to an Oktoberfest.
Now the Queensbury Town Board will use 10 factors to decide which projects get funded in town.
Projects can score up to 50 points.
New projects are given priority with 5 points, while multiple-day projects are also awarded 5 points. Other factors include promoting year-round visits, having the organizational capacity and diversified funding sources to successfully execute the project, and whether the project will increase sales tax revenue.
“I think it will be helpful and we will use it this year,” Supervisor John Strough said.
Board member Jennifer Switzer has been working on the evaluation for more than a year. She said the town needed a way to judge projects that are often very different from each other.
“Room nights are only important for things like lacrosse,” she said, referring to a major competition at Golden Goal Sports Park in Fort Ann that fills many hotels. “I think if they’re asking for so much money, it ought to be heads in beds.”
For smaller events, she said the board should consider sales tax revenue.
“Merchandise, gasoline, even if it’s a one-day event, it could be worth it,” she said.
Strough objected, noting that the town isn’t bound by law to prioritize big projects that bring in overnight guests.
“Nowhere does it say it has to increase visitor room nights,” he said. “It’s more of, are you providing an event that’s going to bring visitors to our area?”
But board member Catherine Atherden said the 50-point evaluation was not about the town’s legal requirements.
“This is just for us to try and decide if we’re going to give the money,” she said.
In the end, the board agreed that no points would be awarded just for overnight guests. Instead, points would be earned for bringing visitors to Queensbury for any length of time, with more points for events that are more than one day.