Hotel tax

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner is expected to formally introduce a bill to raise the county’s tax rate on hotels — such as the Woodspring Suites on Ballenger Center Drive, as shown — from 3 percent to 5 percent.

Overnight visitors in Frederick County could see a slight bump in the cost of their hotel stays soon.

County Executive Jan Gardner (D) is expected to formally introduce a bill to the County Council on Tuesday to raise the county’s hotel tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The rate increase would translate to a little more than $900,000 in estimated additional revenue each year.

The county collects the tax and passes about 97 percent of the revenue to the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

Gardner’s proposed bill includes an amendment to a memorandum of understanding agreement with the Tourism Council, which outlines how the revenue would be spent.

The agreement includes stipulations that could allow some of the tax revenue from a proposed downtown hotel and conference center to be returned to pay debt on the project through a rebate.

The tax rebate would be limited to 85 percent of the revenue from that hotel. No money from other hoteliers would be funneled to any proposed downtown hotel project in the county, according to the agreement.

County and tourism officials said Thursday the language was added to the agreement to assuage concerns about the proposed tax increase from some county lawmakers and opponents of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center project during the 2016 General Assembly session.

“We think this addresses what we heard as one of the bigger concerns,” said John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council.

During the legislative session, Republican members of the county’s General Assembly delegation introduced a bill attempting to block the county from increasing the tax rate, arguing that it was unfair for visitors at other hotels in the county to help fund a competing business.

The state Legislature authorized the county to implement a hotel tax in 2004 and gave county government the authority to raise the rate to a maximum of 5 percent.

An increase to 5 percent would still leave Frederick County’s hotel tax among the lowest in the state, Gardner said Thursday.

For fiscal 2016, hotel tax rates in the state ranged from a low of 3 percent (Frederick and Cecil counties) to a high of 9.5 percent (Baltimore city). The counties that border Frederick had rates equal to or higher than the proposal: Montgomery’s rate was 7 percent, Washington County was set at 6 percent and Carroll’s rate was 5 percent.

With the increased rate in Frederick, the Tourism Council would receive an estimated $2 million each year for tourism-related programs, according to a county breakdown. A majority of the total revenue, 62.5 percent, would go to Visit Frederick marketing and operations.

The remaining funds would be divided between an existing grant program, a new grant program for municipal Main Street enhancements and a new destination-based program that would promote community events, agritourism, and other economic development and tourism projects.

Gardner said she thinks the tax proposal represents a compromise, while also expanding tourism funding.

“I think everyone involved with [the downtown hotel and conference center] project heard what the public’s concerns are and will do the best to address them. This addresses the concern that was raised about hotel taxes raised by other entities going into this center,” she said.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines​.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(10) comments

Hammer

Why does Tourism need to spaend abother Million dollars for anything? Really, another thousand visitors mughtbsee an ad and come to Frederick? Boondoggle! Waste of public funds.

FrederickFan

I think its a good idea - charge out of County visitors a reasonable (if you look at all other jurisdictions) rate for the right to stay in Frederick County, and use that money to promote Frederick County.

Sorry folks, I don't see the sky falling on this one. No need to wear any tin foil. This just makes sense.

gary4books

I agree. It seems like a good idea to me. But some of the "logic" and "reasons" seen here just amuse me. Anything goes to win an argument?

jerseygrl42

the issue is NOT that of raising a tax 2% age points, the issue IS subsidizing two Millionaire families with MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars

threecents

Maybe I am wrong, but this combination feels wrong - to give the new place a tax break and at the same time charge their competitors higher taxes, with much of that going to fund county advertising for the new place. Also, how long is the new place getting this tax break? It very well could help the city and the county, but the way we are going about it...

steven09

If I understand this correctly, it does address my biggest concern. If passed, I can now full-heartedly support this project.

Positive

Agree with you steven09. This project is a tremendous economic development opportunity for Frederick and this change makes the case stronger.

kimberlymellon

The charts and graphs all show that the City/County's lodging bread and butter is Government funded travel (required to pay local lodging taxes). So, unless Jan adds an exemption for this group, how in the world, does it make any sense to reach deeper into our own Taxpayer (Federal and State) pockets to pay Frederick those hotel taxes that Jan wants to increase and give to Plamondon? Isn't that slamming the 'open for business' door in the face of our business travelers and putting at risk the livilhood of supporting hotels and restuarants, etc? IMHPersonalOpinion

Burgessdr

Isn't just amazing that other 4 star hotels all over the country charge above government per dien and stay in business? Only one county of 3500 counties in the US will it fail and that be ... yes, Frederick County MD. Just 200 rooms at above per diem out of 2000 rooms in Frederick County and that will sink a $400 million tourism economy, kill 6500 jobs, and put out of business dozens of restaurants. Just absolutely amazing. Oh yeah, it is even more amazing that Plamondon will be just shoveling in all that dirty money while the hotel fails.

jthompson

Jan, my good friend and former colleague, and I had honest policy differences during our tenure on the BOCC over the wisdom and desirability of using public funds to subsidize multi-national, multi-billion $$$, private business entities whose top executive officers paid themselves millions of $$$ a year in salaries, bonuses, stock options, golden parachutes and other deferred compensation.

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