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Auburn Mulls Adopting Hotel Occupancy Tax


The City of Auburn is mulling implementing a 5% hotel occupancy tax.

At its Thursday meeting, City Clerk Chuck Mason gave a presentation to City Council about the possibility of a hotel occupancy tax for the city and what the process would be for Auburn to adopt one. Council then gave its support to drafting letters to State Senator Rachel May and Assemblyman John Lemondes requesting they start a home rule request legislation process for the city, thus kicking off the chain of events to create the tax. 

Home Rule Request Bills need to be introduced in the Assembly and Senate.  The city would then need to pass a resolution supporting the bills. If adopted by the legislature, the legislation would then need to be signed into law by the governor. Finally, Council would have to adopt a local law establishing a hotel occupancy tax.

If this can all happen by November of 2024, Mason stated that the tax could take effect by January 1, 2025.

A hotel occupancy tax is a tax on each night’s stay at a hotel, motel, or Air B&B-style rental. Since Cayuga County already has had a 5% occupancy tax since the 1990s, someone staying at a hotel in Auburn could pay a 10% total occupancy tax.

Mason estimates that for every 1% of hotel occupancy tax, $100,000 in revenue would be generated. This means a 5% tax could see the city gain $500,000 in revenue every year.

Councilor Terry Cuddy cited the effect increased tourism in the city – something expected to increase in 2024 with the completion of restoration to the Parker Street Church complex by the National Park Service – has on its infrastructure as the main reason for his support.

“We’re already seeing tourist numbers increasing, and it’s our infrastructure, the roads, the emergency, services, everything that the city provides takes the major brunt of the traffic so it makes total sense that we act upon this,” Cuddy said.

Karen Kuhl, Executive Director of the Cayuga County Tourism Office, addressed Council during the meeting’s final public-to-be-heard segment. While she commended the council for seeking a fiscally responsible way to pay for city expenses, she warned of a potential “seesaw effect” where the additional tax could discourage potential travellers and investors.

“I just urge you to think about, like I said, the other side of the seesaw decision of increasing the occupancy tax and what investments you might be discouraging in the area as well as the impact to [local] businesses themselves,” Kuhl said. “The tourism and the economic impact and the sales tax that tourism brings with it does assist every household in Cayuga County with between $300-400 in reduction of taxes they have to pay based on the income that tourism brings.”

This year, the Villages of Skaneateles and Weedsport were both given authority to adopt such taxes, 5% for Skaneateles and 7% for Weedsport. Both municipalities voted to adopt their respective measures.

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