July 28, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Democrats Call to Activate a Committee to Promote Rensselaer County Tourism
Members of the Democratic Minority of the Rensselaer County Legislature have filed legislation this week that would direct revenue collected from the county’s hotel “bed tax” to a dedicated Tourism Development Fund.
In 1991, the Rensselaer County Legislature recognized the importance of tourism dollars and approved a 3% sales tax added to the charges of overnight accommodations from travelers who stayed in local hotels, which now include Airbnb’s as of 2017. Currently, the county’s 3% bed tax generates over $600,000 in tax revenue each year, all of which goes directly to the county’s general fund for day to day operations. Minority Legislators believe that the promotion of tourism in Rensselaer County is inadequately funded, and that the County Executive in the upcoming 2022 budget needs to dedicate a significant percentage of the bed tax revenue to the promotion of Rensselaer County’s unique attractions and events.
“The start of the county budget process this year coincides with an unprecedented post-pandemic increase in tourism, so the timing is perfect,” said Minority Leader Peter Grimm, who has now been advocating for a Tourism Development Fund at the county level for 13 years. “Tourism is an identified economic engine that has basically remained untapped in Rensselaer County, and if we begin to positively and aggressively promote our tourist attractions, it will increase our revenues and help offset property taxes. In our communities throughout the county, tourism provides unique economic opportunities, and tourism dollars offer important financial benefits to the overall economy.”
“For every dollar spent on tourism in our county, seven dollars are returned to the state in the form of local and state taxes,” added Deputy Minority Leader Cynthia Doran. “Many residents of Rensselaer County have still not financially recovered from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tax relief that would come from promoting tourism would be a much-needed economic boost for the residents and businesses in the county.”
In April of 2015, the Rensselaer County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution establishing a Tourism Development Fund, which would be funded by the aforementioned bed tax. However, the new tourism committee that this resolution called for has yet to take shape. Legislator Mark Fleming, who sits on the Rensselaer County Planning and Tourism Committee, is prepared to work along his Minority colleagues and the Legislative Majority on finally providing tourism marketing, advertising and attraction development that will assist local towns, villages and cities.
“From the historical architecture in the city of Troy to our wonderful state parks to the East, Rensselaer County has so much to offer,” Fleming stated. “I look forward to working with my fellow Legislators on the Planning and Tourism Committee to promote the attractions in our county to a broader audience of travelers.”