Pickerington Times-Sun

Judge rejects township bid to stop county bed tax

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Violet Township's bid to end what it contends was Fairfield County's unlawful collection of a 3-percent bed tax has suffered a major and perhaps fatal setback.

Fairfield County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Martin denied the township's legal challenge to prevent the county from collecting the tax in a decision rendered on Dec. 27.

Martin's decision could mark the end of a nearly year long legal battle which officially started when Violet Township filed a suit for injunction Feb. 6, 2013, to declare the county's 3-percent bed tax invalid.

Now the township must decide whether it wants to appeal Martin's decision.

"We're disappointed," said Bill Yaple, Violet Township director of operations.

He said as of Jan. 10 the Violet Township trustees have not advised the township's legal counsel whether "to move forward with an appeal."

"Our legal counsel wants to (appeal) because they don't think it's right," Yaple said.

Violet Township argued in its court filing that

Fairfield County failed to adhere to a July 12, 1980 deadline to adopt a bed tax.

The county did not attempt to collect on the tax until the summer of 1981, a year past the deadline.

Yaple said by that time both the city of Columbus and Reynoldsburg enacted their own bed taxes, with both entities having territory in Violet Township.

He said the Ohio Revised Code prohibits Fairfield County from enacting its own bed tax once a city located in the county adopts a bed tax.

Yaple said that particular issue wasn't addressed in Judge Martin's Dec. 27 three-page decision.

"Per the Ohio Revised Code, if another municipality or township within an area of a county had enacted a bed tax, even if they didn't have a motel in the area, it forbids a county to enact a countywide tax," Yaple said.

Fairfield County has been collecting a 3-percent bed tax on the three Pickerington area hotels -- Hampton Inn, The Best Western and the Comfort Inn -- since 1983.

After filing suit last February, the township filed a subsequent motion in November seeking to place the bed tax money into an escrow fund.

Martin's latest decision also rendered that issue moot.

"That will not happen now," Yaple said.

"The county continues to collect on the tax," he said.

Money derived from the bed tax goes to the Fairfield County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

According to that agency, about $106,000 in bed tax money was collected from the township's three hotels in 2012.

Violet Township officials said from the outset they initiated the suit because they desired to harness the revenue from the hotels to specifically promote township tourist attractions, such as the nationally recognized Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame.

Yaple said he anticipated the decision whether to appeal Martin's decision to be considered at the Jan. 15 Violet Township Board of Trustees meeting.

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