The Fulton County Commissioners voted 2-1 to impose a 3% tax on persons who stay overnight in the five hotel-motels in the county, including the Arch Motel and Sauder Heritage Inn.
Commissioners took the vote, Thursday, Sept. 25, after hearing comments opposed to the tax from operators of such facilities.
Perry Rupp, president of the board of commissioners, voted against imposing the tax.
Bill Rufenacht and Paul Barnaby voted in favor.
The 3% tax on overnight stays goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015. Hotel-motel owners will collect the tax and submit the funds to the county auditor.
Under state law, the county may spend the tax revenue specifically for the promotion, advertising, and marketing of the region in which the county is located.
In an interview with the Archbold Buckeye, Rufenacht said part of the money will go to the operation of a new Fulton County visitor center.
The visitor center will be part of a new joint Fulton County-Ohio Department of Transportation building planned on county-owned land behind the Robert Fulton building on St. Rt. 108, east of the Fulton County fairgrounds.
Another part of the money will be used to advertise county attractions.
Minutes of the meeting published by the commissioner office states Debbie David, chief executive officer of Sauder Village, said she believed it was a misconception that the tax will not affect the revenue of the Sauder Heritage Inn, as well as the Village itself.
The minutes state David questioned the use of the revenue, noting it cannot be used for the construction of the visitor center.
She noted under state law, a new organization or agency must be created with its own executive board and sales force.
She conceded there is a need for business in the area, but said she does not believe the tax will properly fund the marketing need.
David requested the tax not be enacted, the minutes state.
Rufenacht said while the commissioners do have the option of creating a convention and visitors bureau, other non-profits, such as the Community Improvement Corporation or the county Economic Development Corporation, a publicprivate partnership, could be tasked with spending the money.
Steve VanSickle, general manager at Sauder Heritage Inn, was quoted in the minutes as saying while families and individuals may not be concerned with the lodging tax when making a reservation, corporations looking for available rooms for business purposes inspect every detail of the hotel-motel charges, and will likely reconsider where employees stay if it means more money.
Robert Gustwiller, chief operations officer of the MSTAR motel at the Wauseon turnpike exit, said his facility can’t handle any more conventions.
A tourist bureau bringing more conventions makes no sense unless it focuses on the winter months when business is slow, the minutes report.
He said his business has trouble keeping up with demand during the peak season, so he didn’t see what assistance the visitor center would be.
The minutes quote Gustwiller as saying the tax is just another inconvenience for hotel and motel owners.
Gustwiller also questioned if people who rent campground space will be required to pay the lodging tax.
Rupp said from his reading of the state law, campgrounds are not addressed.
Rufenacht is quoted in the minutes as saying the intent of the tax is to bring additional people to businesses, not take them away, and every person he has spoken to about the tax said it’s not a factor in making a reservation.
He was quoted in the minutes saying the added advantage of the welcome center and the assistance of advertising and promotion of local hotels and county attractions are worthwhile.
The minutes quote Barnaby as saying Fulton County has a great history that can be promoted.