Clifton Park mulls over bed tax

Gazette File Photo.
One of the many hotels in Clifton ParkGazette File Photo. One of the many hotels in Clifton Park

— Clifton Park, with its burgeoning hotel district around Northway Exit 9, wants to become the second community in Saratoga County to collect a room occupancy tax, money it would invest in local improvements.

The town is considering adopting a 1.5 percent tax on all rented hotel and motel rooms — a fee that would be collected on top of the 1 percent Saratoga County room tax that is imposed on all lodging facilities in the county.

Town Supervisor Philip C. Barrett said rough estimates are that the new tax would raise $300,000 in 2017.

The money would be used to promote the area as a destination and make physical improvements in the “hotel district” that is forming around Exit 9.

“The town has outlined a hotel district which includes only the area where the hotels currently reside,” Barrett said. “Funds from the occupancy tax will only be invested within this boundary.”

The district largely overlaps the town’s busiest commercial area, where town officials are encouraging redevelopment to make the area more downtown-like and pedestrian friendly. Shopping plazas and a variety of restaurants are found in the area.

But with the commercial development has come a need for public safety, infrastructure, traffic and pedestrian access improvements, and town officials said the bed tax revenue could help meet those needs.

Barrett said local hotel management was included in the planning for the tax, which will require approval from the state Legislature before it can take effect.

If the tax is created, the total room tax would become 2.5 percent, which would still be less than the 6 percent total room tax in Saratoga Springs, the 6 percent tax in Albany County, and the 4 percent tax in Schenectady County.

“Clifton Park by any measurable metric is the lowest-cost place to do business, and we want to maintain that distinction,” Barrett said.

The town doesn’t have a general property tax. Barrett said there was no talk about re-establishing a property tax as a way to raise new revenue rather than establishing a new room tax.

The Exit 9 area, which 20 years ago had only a couple of chain hotels, in recent years have developed a cluster of upscale hotels that are providing a new concentrated lodging location between those on Wolf Road in Colonie and those in Saratoga Springs.

Town officials said there are now 710 available rooms in Clifton Park. The addition of a Courtyard by Marriott now under construction on Plank Road and a LaQuinta Inn being planned on Route 9 will increase the available rooms to nearly 1,000 by 2017.

Barrett said the Clifton Park visitor demographic includes business travelers, leisure travelers and people in the area for family visits. The GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta has stimulated a lot of new business visitors, economic developers believe.

The spending program will be coordinated through the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. Chamber staff will handle any spending to promote the area, working through a new Clifton Park Hospitality Committee that will include the chamber and hospitality industry representatives.

“This initiative will allow us to expand the chamber’s resources and cultivate an experienced team of people on the ground working for our members every day,” said chamber President Peter Bardunias.

Barrett said the Town Board is expected to consider a resolution on Monday that will ask the state Legislature to establish the new tax.

Such a “home rule” bill is essential before legislation can be introduced, if it is to be seriously considered. Passing the resolution this month should get the tax bill introduced early in the 2016 legislative session. It would not become law unless adopted by both houses of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, so it will probably be well into 2016 before the town could start collecting the tax.