MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County's 5 percent occupancy tax only generates so much money each year.
It's a given then that only so many tourism and waterway projects can be funded with that money. An evaluation process set by the county organizes all applications for the two funding sources into a prioritized list - with projects being funded from the top down until all available money is gone.
When reviewing the proposed 2010 allocations Wednesday at the August meeting of the Chautauqua County Legislature, it was said that more money appeared to be going to the south end of the county than the north. So Stephen Keefe, D-Fredonia, called shenanigans.
"There is a huge disparity here," Keefe said during the meeting, adding that by his count, the north end of the county would be receiving $16,480 for tourism projects in 2010 while the south end of the county will be receiving $82,995.
"What we've done in the waterways occupancy tax is $1,500 for the north county and $343,595 to the south county," Keefe said. "This isn't fair. This isn't equitable. This isn't right. ... I'm going to fight all the way unless this is fair and equitable. The way that we're distributing these occupancy tax dollars isn't going to work."
During discussion, Maria Kindberg, D-Jamestown, explained that legislators were following the prioritized list generated to decide who receives occupancy tax funding.
Chautauqua County imposes two taxes totalling five percent on hotels, motels and inns - a three percent tax and a two percent tax. Revenues from the first are dedicated to funding tourism projects while revenues from the latter are earmarked for projects protecting or enhancing lakes and streams. Organizations with projects apply for funding, those applications are prioritized and the legislature funds however many it can.
At the start of Wednesday's meeting, legislative candidate and Fredonia resident John Gullo suggested that maybe the process needs to be altered in order to provide balance between both ends of the county.
"I am not willing to engage in the North County-South County war in any way," Gullo said. "On the other hand, the collection of these taxes is countywide and the distribution needs to address that there are good projects in the South County and good projects in the North County that deserve funding."
Keefe later reiterated Gullo's comments, suggesting that maybe the process should be altered in order ensure a balance between both ends of the county when it comes to occupancy tax funding.
Ultimately, the list of tourism projects was amended by the legislature - removing a higher-prioritized south county project to fund a north county project which had just missed the cutoff.
Commenting on the pot of money available, Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, explained that less occupancy tax allocation money is expected to be available in 2010 than was in 2009. Therefore, fewer projects were chosen to be funded, with the north end of the county feeling hit harder than the south county appears.