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Giannettino on Bed Tax Opposition: Lemondes Could Have Helped Auburn


What will be the consequences of Assemblyman John Lemondes’ decision not to support a bed tax for Auburn?

A bed tax, also called a hotel occupancy tax or room tax, is a tax on each night’s stay at a hotel, motel, or Airbnb-style rental. City staff had estimated that a 5% bed tax would generate $500,000 in revenue for the city.

Speaking with Finger Lakes News Radio, Mayor Jimmy Giannettino said the money would have gone into the city’s general operating fund to offset tourism costs such as public safety and road maintenance without burdening property owners. Without the tax, the city will have a budget gap.

“This is one way [Lemondes] could have helped us,” said Giannettino. “This is one way that he could have provided property tax relief to the people of Auburn. Now, there’s a $225,000 budget gap that we’re going to have to make up.”

Due to Lemonde’s failure to support home rule, City Council will vote Thursday to amend the proposed city budget by lowering $250,000 in occupancy tax revenue to $0 and approving a $250,000 increase in the use of fund balance to offset the revenue loss. Council will then vote on whether or not to adopt the amended budget.

For the tax to have been implemented, Auburn needed the support of Lemondes and State Senator Rachel May to begin a home rule legislation process for the city. While May introduced legislation in January, Lemondes held off, ultimately deciding to oppose the city’s efforts in a May press release.

“The fact that Assemblyman Lemondes has refused to support our home rule request pretty much means that, at this point in time, we will not be able to move forward with a hotel occupancy tax in the City of Auburn,” said Giannettino.

The mayor and city staff found out about the assemblyman’s decision through the press release as, according to Giannettino, the city received no notification from Lemondes’ office. Giannettino called this decision disrespectful.

“He broke this news in the press,” said Giannettino. “He did not communicate with my office at all which is a little discouraging… The fact that he’s chosen to disrespect the office of mayor here in the City of Auburn is a little disheartening. In this day and age of bombastic politics and partnership, it’d be good if we could all work together on things.”

In his decision to oppose the tax, Lemondes cited the fact that Cayuga County already has a 5% hotel occupancy tax, and said he believes Auburn should get a share of that; however, when the county legislature voted in April to renew the tax, it did not include any language to share funding with the city.

Earlier in April, City Council passed a resolution asking the county to split the tax revenue generated from short-term rentals within city limits with it. This city had hoped to use that money to assist in funding its Historic and Cultural Sites Commission tourism promotion and development programs, unlike revenue from its own up to 5% tax which would have gone into the general operating fund.

While the assemblyman’s opposition to home rule for Auburn has derailed the city’s plans for a bed tax at the moment, Giannettino said he won’t give up on creating one.

“I will work with the next assembly member to try and get this done next year,” said Giannettino.

Lemondes had previously supported requests from Skaneateles and Weedsport for a bed tax.

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