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Bed tax increase in St. Lawrence County will not happen

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CANTON — With the expectation of an increase in its sales tax, St. Lawrence County has shelved the idea of raising its bed tax, but some legislators believe enforcement of the law should be reviewed for consistency.

Hurting for revenue, legislators last year talked about requesting home-rule legislation to increase the occupancy tax but tabled further discussion until they knew whether the state Legislature would approve a law allowing them to raise the sales tax.

With that approval in hand, county legislators recently decided not even to talk about a bed tax hike.

“I’m not appointing a committee. I’m happy to leave it on the table,” said legislative Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington. “It’s not something I’m focused on.”

In 1991, the county imposed a hotel and motel tax of 3 percent of the room rent. The preliminary discussion had been to raise the tax from 3 to 5 percent of the daily rental rate.

While a request for an increase is unlikely, how the tax is collected and from whom could be a topic of further discussion.

Legislator Donald A. Peck, R-Gouverneur, said it is not clear whether the tax applies when property owners rent rooms in private homes or if a summer place is leased to others.

For example, Mr. Peck said, he has heard a number of people are renting rooms and entire houses for the Bassmaster Elite Tournament Aug. 8 to 11 in Waddington.

“I don’t know who needs to pay and who doesn’t,” he said.

Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said the law and how the tax is collected should be reviewed.

“I think it’s very important we have controls so that laws in place are followed equally,” he said. “I think we’ve got to do things fairly.”

Mr. Peck said he would prefer to turn over collection to the county Chamber of Commerce.

“They seem to know all the mom-and-pop establishments and we don’t,” he said.

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