January 14, 2013

Waterville mayor urges state lodging tax hike over revenue-sharing cuts

'Would I rather get money from out-of-staters than from property taxpayers in Waterville? Absolutely,' Karen Heck says

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Mayor Karen Heck recommends the state raise its lodging tax rather than eliminate state revenue-sharing payments to communities for two years as recommended by Gov. Paul LePage.

click image to enlarge

Waterville Mayor Karen Heck

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Heck said she is disappointed with LePage's budget proposal, which includes suspending revenue sharing with municipalities.

"As the governor knows, towns have no other source of revenue besides the property tax, and the property tax is the most regressive tax we have," Heck said. "If we are branding the state as 'Vacationland,' we are doing ourselves a disservice by charging the lowest lodging tax in New England. Nobody's going to stop coming to Maine because our lodging equals the rest of New England -- or could be equal to the rest of New England's."

Maine's lodging tax is 7 percent, an amount that has not changed since 1986. Massachusetts has a 5.7 percent lodging tax, but cities or towns in that state may choose to levy an additional lodging tax of up to 6 percent.

Vermont charges 9 percent and communities with local options in that state may charge an additional 1 percent.

In Connecticut, the room occupancy tax is 15 percent for the first 30 days, and the state does not allow towns or counties to add a local-option tax.

Heck said charging more for lodging would generate revenue from people visiting Maine.

"Would I rather get money from out-of-staters than from property taxpayers in Waterville? Absolutely."

Heck said Monday that she plans to share her thoughts with city councilors when they meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers.

In other matters Tuesday, the council will consider borrowing $5.8 million for capital improvement projects.

Councilors also are scheduled to consider approving:

* A food license for Maureen Kibler, doing business as the Button Down Cafe at 10 Water St., in the Hathaway Creative Center.

* A $4,625 contract with William Najpauer to help prepare policies for the city's comprehensive plan.

* Submission of a foreign trade zone application.

* A memorandum of understanding for Quarry Road Recreation Area.

* Rezoning 140 Western Ave.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

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