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Carbon progresses with hotel tax

Commissioners expect to reach agreement soon with visitors bureau

Carbon County officials are confident that an agreement regarding the hotel tax revenues that has been in the works since the beginning of this year will soon be complete.

On Thursday, the county commissioners said that negotiations with the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau have been going well in recent months with regard to the percentage the county will receive from the hotel tax it collects on accommodations.

“Progress,” Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said when asked about where the agreement stands. “We’re still looking at some of the language and we’re still working on it. We’re pretty confident we’ll have an agreement shortly.”

Carbon County held its ground when the visitors bureau, which manages tourism promotion for four counties in the region, announced a new proposal for the tax as a result of new legislation that amended the current hotel tax law.

Last year, Carbon County was receiving 50 percent of all hotel tax collected, which went to cover Mauch Chunk Lake Park and a grant program for nonprofit organizations that promote tourism.

But the new proposal would have slashed the portion Carbon received to 20 percent for the first $500,000 collected and 10 percent after that. Carbon collects approximately $700,000 annually from the hotel tax.

In March, the commissioners said that the deal wasn’t working because it would have meant ending the grant program or having to fund Mauch Chunk Lake Park with taxpayer dollars.

Negotiations between the county and visitors bureau were rocky at first as leadership at the visitors bureau was changing, but Nothstein said Thursday that communication has improved greatly and it was what helped get the negotiations back on track.

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard commended officials, as well as Marlyn Kissner, executive director of the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation for all the hard work to get the proposal to where it is today. Details on what is included in the new proposal have not been announced.

Ron Sheehan, county treasurer, said that none of the tax collected in the first and second quarters of the fiscal year has been distributed. There is currently approximately $320,000 in revenue that was collected the first half of the year.

He added that the third quarter ends today, so that revenue will be held until the agreement is in place.

“I am pretty confident that before the end of the year, everything will be back to normal,” Sheehan said.

Chris Barrett, the new president and CEO of Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, said on Thursday evening that the county commissioners have been great to work with regarding the negotiations.

“They have been fair and respectful,” he said. “They care very much about tourism and their constituents, which we respect. Marlyn Kissner of CCEDC has been instrumental in helping us through this process and we look forward to a strong partnership moving forward. We are optimistic.”