Hotel tax suit: It was only a matter of time

After years of questioning by opponents of the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau tourism operations, it was just a matter of time until some sort of law suit was filed.

The law suit filed a week ago claims financial information on the bureau’s operations deliberately excludes all entities that are not members of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.

There are allegations that non-chamber members are being charged money to put information in the visitors center and that people who have tried to become members of the bureau’s executive committee have been turned down because they are not chamber members.

Let’s take a deep breathe and examine the basics.

The visitors bureau is audited by an independent third-party and those reports of how hotel tax funds are used pass through the Lycoming County Commissioners for approval. Nothing illegal has been found.

There are countless taxes locally, statewide and nationally that do not directly benefit every person or entity. The theory is the expenditures of those revenues will indirectly help everyone.

Whether that is true cannot be quantified, but that does not make the bureau’s operations improper.

While non-chamber members should be able to get their information in the center’s brochures, the chamber has the right to charge for that information.

As for who is on the bureau’s executive committee, we believe the bureau has the right to make those decisions. Countless organizations make the same decisions and some people may rightfully claim unfairness, but that does not make it illegal.

We want a visitors bureau that uses the hotel tax revenues to maximum benefit of our county by attracting positive traffic. We stand behind anyone who can contribute to that effort. To date, there has been no evidence, despite years of political fingerpointing, that the visitors bureau is inhibiting that effort.

We hope the outcome of this suit will be an end to all the questions, and improvements, wherever warranted, in visitors bureau operations.

While the visitors bureau obviously has its critics, an objective look at other communities – which we encourage – would bring most people to the realization that overhauling what is in place in our community would lead to less effective results.

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