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Legislators vote to continue occupancy tax

PENN YAN—Following a public hearing June 14, Yates County Legislators voted 10 to two to continue the four percent occupancy tax on motels, bed and breakfast operations and rental cottages. Legislators Mark Morris and Patrick Galvin voted no. Legislators Steve Webster and Leslie Church were excused.
During the hearing, Branchport resident Vince Bedient said he is totally against the tax because it is discriminatory. He said the law is totally unenforceable and is a hassle for the amount of money realized from it.
Rainbow Cove Resort owner Jeff Ripley said he wasn’t in favor of the tax when it went in, but, “Now that it’s in we need to make the best use of it.” He suggested property owners pass the tax on to the people renting their properties.
Don Erickson, owner of Tudor Hall Bed & Breakfast added his view, also commenting he is not thrilled with the tax, but has never had any complaints from clients of his business. Erickson commented cottage rentals are, “In many cases, in direct competition with us. They resist a tax I am forced to pay. None of us likes to see escalating taxes. This tax keeps the playing field level.” Erickson’s comments were received with applause from the audience.
Another speaker said she is not a bed and breakfast owner but feels the tax is great because the two percent that goes to lower her tax burden is much appreciated.
Half of the proceeds from the tax after expenses are used to promote tourism and the balance is placed in the General Fund. Last year $284,860 was raised through the occupancy tax.
In other business: A new feature of the meeting was a public comment period. During this time, resident Jack Wilbert spoke to legislators about the issue of drilling in Marcellus Shale. He said the region needs to look at long term, not just short term benefits of the drilling, asking why counties have not requested a moratorium to protect the people of the Finger Lakes.
Mary Howell Martens said she was speaking as a farmer, small business owner and parent. Martens noted agriculture and tourism are the foundation of economics here, asking, “After 15 or 20 years when the gas is out, what would be the effect on the economy?” She suggested taking it one step at a time and waiting until the drilling can be done safely.
During the regular portion of the meeting, legislators approved a Road Preservation Use and Repair Agreement. This resolution was prepared by the county Marcellus Shale Task Force. Legislator Tim Dennis said, “This is to protect the integrity of our roads in the case heavy equipment use occurs.” Heavy equipment as well as tankers carrying massive amounts of water used in the drilling process have produced concern about damage to roads. Dennis said the mission of the county Marcellus Shale Task Force is to prepare Yates County in case drilling comes here.
• Changes in Workforce Development/Youth Bureau were approved. The full time position of Employment and Training Counselor was reduced to part-time as a result of the loss in federal funding for the position. The position of part-time Youth Bureau Director was also created. Following the meeting, Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy said there was a loss of $20,843 in the Federal Adult and Dislocated Worker Fund and as a result had to reduce one employee from fulltime to part-time. The net cost of the downgrade will be $7,000.
• Prior to the start of the meeting, election workers were honored. Legislature chairman Taylor Fitch said the New York State Board of Elections has recognized the Yates County Board of Elections as the recipient of the 2010 Meritorious Accomplishment Award in April for innovative and superior service to the electorate. The board of elections was commended both for their dedication and successful implementation of the new voting systems under the 2005 Help America Vote Act. Fitch said, “The innovative processes and procedures they came up with are being copied. You took on the challenge and showed you are leaders and role models for the rest of the state.” Fitch commended the election workers for their dedication, noting they must be on duty at polling sites for 16 to 18 hours on election days. Scores of workers received certificates during the program for service ranging upwards from one year. One worker topped all others; Beth McMinn was recognized for her service of 53 years.
The next meeting of the Yates County Legislature will be at 6:30 p.m. on July 12 in legislative chambers at the Yates County Office Building on Liberty Street in Penn Yan.

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