Pickerington Times-Sun

Township files to have county bed tax funds placed in escrow

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Violet Township has filed a motion to place the collection and distribution of Fairfield County's lodging taxes in escrow.

The motion, filed on Nov. 13, is the latest salvo in an ongoing legal feud between Violet Township and Fairfield County over who has the rights to collect bed taxes derived from the township's three Pickerington hotels: Best Western, Comfort Inn East and Hampton Inn East.

The conflict arose when Violet Township passed a resolution in October 2012 to keep bed tax money generated from its three hotels.

The township followed that up by filing a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court last February which stated that Fairfield County missed a deadline in July of 1980 authorizing it to collect the 3-percent tax.

"The county says it's their tax and they had it in place. We're saying they didn't," said Bill Yaple, Violet Township Administrator.

Yaple said Fairfield County did not attempt to adopt the 3-percent bed tax until the summer of 1981, well after the deadline.

He said by that time Rey-noldsburg and Columbus, both with territory in Fairfield County, enacted their own respective bed taxes.

Yaple said state law precludes Fairfield County from enacting a bed tax once a municipality located in the county adopted a bed tax.

"Obviously, if the county's bed tax has never been valid, this has implications for hotels in the entire county," Yaple said.

"Fairfield County has collected the 3-percent bed tax on every night of lodging since 1983."

Yaple said attempts to negotiate a settlement with Fairfield County have been unsuccessful, thus the reason for the township's desire to see the collected bed tax money placed in escrow.

"While it is incumbent upon the township to collect its validly enacted bed tax, we are concerned that our local businesses not be put in the middle," Yaple said.

"We have therefore asked the court to put the 3 percent bed tax in a court escrow or trust fund until this matter is resolved," Yaple said.

He said he hopes the motion will force the county's hand.

"We're trying to put some pressure on them," Yaple said.

"We're trying to make (the case) move. We're coming up on a year now, it's been stalemated since then," he said.

Yaple said a previous effort to have the bed tax funds placed in escrow were denied by the court.

According to Nov. 13 motion, Violet Township requests the court to order payments collected by Fairfield County "in the incorporated and unincorporated portions of Violet Township from Nov. 16, 2012 through the pendency of this case" be paid instead to the court and held in trust.

Yaple said he estimates the annual bed tax funds collected from the three hotels to be about $60,000 to $70,000.

He said if the township prevails it could harness some of those funds for its operating budget.

However, the majority of any bed tax monies collected would have to be directed toward establishing a Violet Township visitors and convention bureau by state law.

Executive Director Greg Eyerman of the Fairfield County Visitor's and Convention Bureau stated last January that his organization received about one-fourth of its $340,000 budget in 2012 from the three Pickerington hotels through the 3 percent bed tax collections.

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