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Lodging taxes topic of concern at finance meeting

By Staff | Sep 14, 2012

At a meeting of the Shepherdstown Finance Committee, business owner Pam Berry discussed concerns related to the use of the town’s hotel/motel fees.

At the meeting held last Friday, Berry referenced state code with regard to the proper use of hotel/motel tax revenues.

Berry, who served as a member of the Shepherdstown Finance Committee from 1996 to 2000, said her concern is that funds currently given to the Shepherdstown Library would be better used to promote Shepherdstown’s tourism and economic interests. And according to Berry, the intent of the state ordinance for hotel/motel funds calls for such a use.

The ordinance states that permissible expenditures include the planning or construction of civic or convention centers, the payment of the principal or interest of revenue bonds to finance convention centers, the promotion of conventions, public parks and tourist info centers, the promotion of the arts, historic sites, beautification projects or medical care.

To date, the library has been receiving a portion of the funds under the “promotion of the arts,” classification.

State code however defines “promotion of the arts” as activity to promote public appreciation and interest in one or more of the arts. It includes dancing, painting exhibits, concerts and musicals or plays.

Currently, the 20 percent of the tax going to the library is being used as part of its operating budget, according to Berry.

“The only thing I wanted to do is to show that it’s most likely an inappropriate use of the hotel/motel tax,” Berry said of Friday’s meeting.

“I was interested in what she had to say,” Mayor Jim Auxer said of Berry’s concerns.

Auxer, who was Mayor from 2001 to 2004 before being re-elected in 2008, said the original decision to allocate funds from the tax to the library will need to be reviewed.

He said of the Town Council, “Obviously they thought they were following the ordinance.”

Mayor Auxer said that since the meeting last week the town has already begun the process of researching the decision and state code.

Auxer said that the town will reach out to the state Attorney General as well as the state Auditor to clarify the law.

“We’ll make a determination after we do our research,” he said.