Lycoming County's hotel tax should be increased while the money it generates and the people who administer it should be held more accountable, according to state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, who held the first of four monthly town hall meetings Wednesday evening at City Hall.
The legislator claimed at his meeting that a portion of almost $1 million earned through a 3-percent hotel tax last year could be used to address issues such as crime prevention or funding the local transit system.
He also said that hotel tax administration costs are out of line with the fund's bottom line. Mirabito said that out of the nearly $1 million - which is added onto hotel bills and paid largely by out-of-county travelers - about $205,000 is used for administration and salary, which supports one part-time position at the Lycoming County Visitor's Bureau.
After the county government's 10-percent cut is accounted for, that leaves just $615,600 for a marketing and grants program, Mirabito said. The bottom line, he said, is that it doesn't make sense to pay $205,000 for a return of $615,600.
"I also have concerns on how the money is being spent," he told a group of about 10 people who showed up for the meeting. "We need to examine if the money is being used as effectively and efficiently as possible."
In addition, Mirabito said it's dangerous that the visitor's bureau administration, which is an affiliate of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, is not required to file an ethics and financial disclosure that shows where it may receive certain funding.
Mirabito admitted that his stance would probably "rattle" some people, but he added that peoples' "heads will spin" when they see the costs of hotel tax administration.
"It's way over the top," he said.
But visitor's bureau officials said they have been open with anyone who wants to check their books.
Employees of the bureau and chamber are not required to complete financial disclosure statements because they are not elected or public employees.