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Town of Pamelia collects $50k in bed tax revenue with no plans to spend

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The town of Pamelia is sitting on nearly $50,000 in bed tax revenue it received from visitors who stayed overnight in hotel rooms in the town.

Bed tax — or occupancy tax, as it is formally known — has received renewed attention in recent months after local hoteliers began asking Jefferson County to spend more of the money it has collected during a period of growth in the area’s hotel offerings.

Despite that, town Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway said there are no plans to spend the money.

“There’s nothing that says you have to spend it, is there?” Mr. Longway asked.

The tax is collected at a rate of 3 percent per night on rooms rented to visitors. By law, the revenue must be spent to promote tourism.

In May, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators voted on a proposal to spend $150,000 of excess bed tax money on five tourism promotion programs.

But the county’s windfall of surplus money — an average of $110,000 every year since 2009 — has not trickled down to all parts of the county equally.

Bed tax revenue is split between the county and the municipalities where the revenue is generated.

Municipalities with more hotels, particularly those located near the water, generate more money.

For instance, the town of Alexandria received $96,113 in bed tax revenue last year.

By contrast, the town of Pamelia typically receives between $5,000 and $6,000 a year in bed tax revenue, according to Mr. Longway.

That money, which is kept in a separate fund, has been piling up since 2006, when the lease ran out on an Interstate 81 billboard used to promote the town’s attractions. Town officials did not renew the lease because the billboard, which cost between $800 and $900 per month, proved to be too expensive to keep, Mr. Longway said.

When the town purchased the lease in the mid-1990s, it was spending more on the billboard than it was taking in from the bed tax, Mr. Longway said.

Mr. Longway said the Town Council is fiscally conservative and not willing to spend money impulsively.

“When we come up with an idea that qualifies, then yeah,” he said. “I don’t think that’s illegal.”

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