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Carbon reaches hotel tax solutionCounty receives less, charges rent for train station

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    Carbon County will now be charging rent to the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau for the space used in the train station. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

Published January 12. 2018 12:49PM

After two years of back-and-forth, Carbon County has a new agreement with the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau on hotel tax revenue.

Under the agreement, announced Thursday, Carbon County’s share of the revenue would drop from 50 percent to 20 percent. But the reduction would be offset by the rent the bureau will now pay for its space in the Jim Thorpe train station.

Until now, the county donated the train station space, plus heat and power, to the visitors bureau. On Thursday, commissioners approved a three-year lease agreement that calls for the bureau to pay $24,000 a year for the space.

An additional offset comes through shifting what was a tourist promotion grant program administered by the county to a disbursement program overseen by the county Chamber of Commerce.

Shifting the tourism promotion funding from the county to the chamber and visitors bureau is a “win-win for everyone involved, said Commissioner William J. O’Gurek.

“We understand the importance of the visitors bureau and the potential that it brings to marketing all of Carbon County. We’re happy to have reached an agreement with them, so that they’re willing to work with (executive director of the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corp.) Marlyn (Kissner) and the chamber to spend money on some of the smaller activities that we otherwise used to fund through a grant program that no longer will be in place.”

The 3 percent hotel tax revenue is collected on all hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and vacation properties in the county.

County Treasurer Ron Sheehan said the county has collected the tax for 2017, “but we have not disbursed anything to the PMVB or to the county, It’s just been held until a contract” was signed.

The county has collected three quarters of 2017 hotel tax revenues, or $565,560.43. Of that, the county gets 4 percent, or $22,622.42, for administering/collecting the tax.

The visitors bureau gets the remaining 96 percent, $542,938.01. Twenty percent of the first $500,000 of that comes back to the county. After that cap is reached, the portion drops to 10 percent.

The revenue split will start with the third-quarter collections, Sheehan said. The county will get 10 percent of the fourth-quarter collections.

Visitors Bureau President and CEO Chris Barrett attended the public commissioners’ meeting Thursday.

“We’re very, very aware of how important this county is to us from a tourism standpoint. The Carbon County product is incredibly strong,” he said.

The contract authorizes the visitors bureau to use the tax revenue to market tourism on behalf of the four counties in its scope, Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne, he said.

That tax (revenue) goes into a common fund. That fund is used to market,” Barrett said.

He gave as an example television spots shown in New York, Philadelphia and central Pennsylvania.

About 190,000 people come through the Jim Thorpe visitors’ center, and the bureau also operates two others.

“We’ve been working on this for almost two years now, hammering out issues,” said Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne E. Nothstein.

“There was an agreement before, but because of a legislative change in April of 2016, that changed the rules, and Carbon County took a big hit,” he said.

Nothstein thanked Kissner, Genevieve Logan Reese and Barbara Green of the visitors bureau, for helping craft the contract.

“We worked on this a long time,” said Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard.

“We wanted to make sure we were taking care of our nonprofits, and as Chris (Barrett) said, Carbon County is a big part of the PMVB. This was a group effort, and I’m proud of my board of commissioners, the PMVB, the chamber. It’s a great day for all of us,” Gerhard said.

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