Township's bed tax move irks county bureau officials
The Violet Township Trustees unanimous vote to pass a 3-percent lodging tax last October has made Fairfield County officials concerned that the county's Visitors and Convention Bureau could lose out on $80,000 in annual revenue.
Violet Township Director of Operations Bill Yaple said the township wants to more fully promote the area's attractions, including the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
He said by enacting the lodging, or "bed" tax, the township will now be required to have its own tourism department.
"I think we have to have a Visitors Bureau by statute," Yaple said.
That is what concerns Fairfield County, and particularly the county visitors and convention bureau, which, according to Executive Director Greg Eyerman, receives about a fourth of its budget from the bed tax generated by people staying in one of the three hotels in Violet Township.
"Because our whole budget (is) $340,000, that's significant," Eyerman said.
Eyerman said the county bureau does a great job of promoting all of Fairfield County, including Pickerington and Violet Township.
"We do promote the whole county, it's a big county," he said.
"We've got festivals, events, parks, shopping.
"Pickerington and Violet Township are things we've been promoting a long time, hopefully we'll keep doing it," Eyerman said.
The Decorative Art Center of Ohio, located in Fairfield County, would also stand to lose about $80,000 that is generated by the bed tax revenue in Violet Township.
By statute, the county bureau and the Decorative Arts Center are the only Fairfield County agencies that receive bed tax money, Eyerman said.
The three hotels that collect lodging taxes in Violet Township are the Hampton Inn, The Best Western and the Comfort Inn.
Yaple said Violet Township is allowed to collect the bed tax because the township's legal counsel discovered that Fairfield County missed a deadline in 1980 authorizing it to collect the tax, thus clearing the way for Violet Township to do so.
The county did pass a resolution to collect the bed tax in July 1981, however, a year past the deadline.
"We had (our) legal counsel look at that, he investigated and came back and said 'we found a flaw,' " Yaple said.
"(Fairfield County) enacted the standards to collect, but they never enacted the tax," Yaple said.
The controversial part of the issue is that Fairfield County officials claim they weren't notified or consulted by Violet Township before the township enacted its own bed tax in October and only found out about it when they were sent a letter from the township's legal counsel in November. Yaple said that was the route the township needed to take.
"If we went to the county without enacting (the bed tax), we would lose our leverage," Yaple said.
Fairfield County Commissioner Steve Davis said it is a matter of meeting with Violet Township to work out an agreement that both entities can live with.
"It's going to hang on cooperation and communication," Davis said.
"That's not how it started, but we'll get there," he said.
"My suspicion is (that) we'll all end up on the same page and figure out what to do going forward," Davis said. "It's going to take some time to get there, I guess."
Davis said the county bureau does excellent work promoting the county.
"I always appreciate their work," he said.
"I think that work will continue, under any scenario, (but) it will definitely be affected if the revenue stream were restricted."
Davis said he didn't begrudge Violet Township for looking out for its best interests.
"I'm not being disrespectful to Violet Township's goal or desire to seek out new revenue streams," Davis said.
"Townships are struggling these days. It's not something I can't understand. It's just business," Davis said.
Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce President Helen Mayle said it would be appropriate to invest Violet Township's portion of the bed tax back into promoting Violet Township.
She said the county bureau doesn't do a good enough job in promoting Pickerington and Violet Township.
"We have an enormous amount of events, activities, shopping, museums, parks, etc," Mayle said.
"We need additional marketing to promote the northern part of Fairfield County," she said.
Yaple said last December he anticipated meeting with Fairfield County offcials about the issue "after the first of the year."
As of Jan. 4, according to Eyerman, the two entities have not yet met. Eyerman said he is simply waiting to see what will transpire.
"I'm not a lawyer, I can't comment on who is right or wrong," Eyerman said.
"Hopefully they'll be able to resolve this amicably," he said.