By PHIL NOBILE
For the fourth time in the past few years, the Town of Harrison will attempt to obtain a hotel occupancy tax to impose on visitors at its two hotels.
The Town Council is hoping to pass the tax within the upcoming year; attempts to pass it date back to 2004. According to town officials, it will be on the agenda for the next council meeting, which is slated for Feb. 10.
“We don’t have one and would like one,” Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said. “I think the governor and some state officials feel it’s another tax on New York and I feel quite the contrary: it’s for people who travel. All the communities around us have a hotel tax and we’re one of the few who do not.”
The potential tax would impose a 3 percent town tax on hotel occupants. Getting a hotel tax in the town has been a longtime desire of officials on both the local and state level, thanks to the nature of the tax taking dollars oftentimes from out-of-towners, not residents. The state Assembly passed a home rule bill in September 2013 to give property tax relief to residents and spearhead the additional hotel tax.
But the tax has yet to meet the approval of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who swore “no new taxes” when he took office in 2011, or of the Republican-led state Senate.
“There’s diversion of voting new taxes,” State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, said. “My argument is going to be considering taxes that do other things, and Harrison ought to have the right to make those decisions. Harrison is caught on the outside looking in.”
According to Latimer, a decision regarding the passing of a tax for the town could come in May, after it goes through the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.
A stipulation of the tax has a three-year sunset clause, which means local communities must continually ask for state authorization in order to implement it. With the state approval authorizing the Village of Rye Brook to implement its own tax, Westchester villages and towns are now eager to join in on a revenue generating tax that was originally implemented only for cities and counties in New York State.
Westchester imposes its own 3 percent tax on hotel occupants, and Harrison’s neighboring municipalities of Rye City, Rye Brook, New Rochelle and White Plains currently have their own taxes. Latimer helped Rye City get the occupancy tax in 2006, allowing it to be the first municipality in Westchester to utilize it. Rye Brook alone receives more than $670,000 annually in non-property tax dollars as a result of the hotel tax, according to Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat and former Rye City mayor. According to Belmont, Harrison could stand to make a similar amount if the tax passes.
“I’ve heard upwards of over $600,000 per year, but anything that could help our tax rate would be great,” he said.
Harrison has two hotels, the Renaissance Westchester Hotel on Red Oak Lane and the Hyatt House on Corporate Park Drive.