Pickerington Times-Sun

Township says county bed tax collection illegal

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Violet Township wants to make sure the tax money derived from visitors staying in township hotels stays in the township.

That is the reason behind a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief filed by the Board of Trustees Feb. 6 against Fairfield County, which currently collects a 3-percent lodging, or "bed" tax, on three hotels in the township and funnels the proceeds to the Fairfield County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Violet Township maintains Fairfield County collecting the tax is not only unfair, it's illegal. The township's legal counsel discovered Fairfield County missed a deadline in July 1980 authorizing it to collect the tax.

The township claims Fairfield County passed a resolution to collect the bed tax July 17, 1981, a year past the deadline.

"(Fairfield County) enacted the standards to collect, but they never enacted the tax," said William Yaple, Violet Township director of operations.

The Violet Township Trustees voted 3-0 to pass a resolution Oct. 17, 2012, to implement its own bed tax.

While there are actually five hotels in the township, three of them are located in Fairfield County and the subject of the complaint.

The two other hotels are located in the Reynoldsburg portion of Violet Township.

The three hotels that collect lodging taxes in Violet Township are the Hampton Inn, The Best Western and the Comfort Inn, all in Pickerington.

The Violet Township Board of Trustees specifically filed its action against the Fairfield County Board of Commissioners, as well as County Treasurer Brian Kuhn and Auditor Jon Slater.

The case has been assigned to Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge Chris Martin.

Yaple said the township wants Martin to make a decision as to the legality of Fairfield County collecting Violet Township's portion of the bed tax.

Yaple said last month the Fairfield County Visitors and Convention Bureau takes in about $80,000 a year from Violet Township hotels through the bed tax.

However, last week he cited a recent newspaper article which tabbed the figure from the year 2012 to be "around $106,000."

Yaple said one goal of the Feb. 6 filing will be to "have the (Fairfield County) Clerk of Courts escrow the funds from date of the (township's) resolution, the first of November of 2012, until a decision made."

Yaple said the township hopes to use the bed tax money for its own purposes.

"We want to harness the revenue that's going to be coming from Violet Township."

He said the money will be used to not only promote Violet Township's tourist attractions, but can be utilized for other needs as well.

"It would partly go to a tourism fund, (but) the law states it doesn't all have to go to tourism, by law we can use part of (bed tax) funds for other purposes."

Yaple has said the township wants to more fully promote the area's attractions, which includes the nationally recognized Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame.

He said if Violet Township does get to collect its own bed tax, then by law it will have it will have to have its own Visitors Bureau.

For now it is a waiting game, although Yaple said he doesn't anticipate it will be a prolonged court matter.

"It's up to the court system now, they usually work fairly quickly," Yaple said.

"I would suspect we'll know something in 60 days. (Fairfield County) can supplement (the complaint) but I don't think they have any other information than what we gave them," he said.

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