YOUNGSTOWN - A controversial 2 percent increase to 5 percent total in the bed tax on Mahoning County lodgings would help support the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, along with economic development, a Western Reserve Port Authority member said Wednesday.
"The airport receives no Department of Defense dollars. All of the rubber removal, all the lights, all the snow removal is the responsibility of the Western Reserve Port Authority," board member James Floyd said after the board's monthly meeting at the Youngstown Business Incubator in downtown Youngstown. "We can't run the risk of bad relations with the Air Force. They have no money."
Mahoning County commissioners on Feb. 29 tabled a measure to raise the tax on hotels and motels in the county after opposition from hotel managers, who said the increase would drive away business.
Fewer visitors also would cut into the county's sales tax revenue due to less spending at restaurants and shops, they added.
The airport would get most of the 2 percent increase, with the rest going to the county's convention and visitors center.
Trumbull County commissioners in December 2010 approved a 1 percent increase in its bed tax to the state limit of 5 percent. The entire amount went to the port authority, giving it 3 percent of the total.
Floyd said the bed tax, especially with expected influx of workers for the area's booming Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas drilling industry, is a more stable revenue source than continuing to go back to the cities and counties for financial support.
"We believe there will be terrific increased demand for hotels, which we know from the experience in Pennsylvania" he said, referring to demand for long-term lodging that has filled many hotels and motels in that state.
Floyd said the tax, which he said isn't a direct tax on residents, is used to support port authorities and other government activities.
He said a specific provision of the tax classifies the port authority as a joint military facility, since the board supports the air base. He said Mahoning County commissioners received a favorable opinion from the state Attorney General's Office to that effect.
Economic development remains a major focus of the board but is putting extra strain on those funds, Floyd said.
He noted the board is extending its economic development reach, with $15,000 allocated for the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative and $10,000 for the Restore program to rebuild the area's railroad system.
The board noted it also used its resources, including its Foreign Trade Zone authority, to help bring cereal giant Kellogg to the abandoned Delphi distribution center, as well as helping secure V&M Star's administrative headquarters.
Floyd estimated the $360,000 the board approved Wednesday for the 2012 economic development budget will last about 21 months without some new revenue source.
He said the board's economic development efforts are being affected by the absence of Rose DeLeon, the port authority's executive director, who is expected to be out six or eight weeks with surgery, although the board said she can work from home.
"It's a great concern," Floyd said of the impact of DeLeon's absence. He said he couldn't comment on her illness.