The Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association is preparing to challenge Delaware County’s new hotel bed tax on behalf of hotels in the Polaris area.

The association says it will seek “corrective action” either through new state legislation or in the courts to put a halt to the “double taxation” of Polaris area hotels.

The tax was approved by voters in March and is intended to fund improvements at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. State legislation introduced by State Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Genoa Township, paved the way for the new tax for the fairgrounds.

“The tax didn’t take into account the double taxation,” said Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. “In the original discussions, the tax didn’t include the Columbus hotels. It definitely poses a problem for the (industry).”

Columbus annexed the Polaris area of Delaware County in 1990. Columbus also imposes a 5.1 percent lodging tax on hotel guest.

Delaware County’s 3 percent, five-year tax is expected to generate $200,000 in revenue annually to be used for improvements to the Delaware County Fairgrounds’ buildings and facilities.

Savarise said that once all the taxes are added up, the amount is higher than most cities larger than Columbus. “The lodging tax rate is higher in (Delaware County) than in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Delaware County officials said they have received $126,986 in receipts to date for the bed-tax in the first month of collection.

The tax went into effect May 6 and is imposed across the county on all hotel and lodging businesses, regardless of municipal boundaries, according to rules approved by county commissioners earlier this year.

In the meantime, the Delaware County Fair Board has started to make plans for the new tax money. “We haven’t received a total yet, but do know the total does include Polaris,” Thomson said Monday. “Over five years, it’s going to be a good figure. We’re going to be able to shape that fairgrounds.”

Savarise said the association would like to work together with the county to solve the issue. “We can’t let it stand as it is,” Savarise said. “The vote was on a specific idea. We are actively working to resolve it.”

Savarise said the hotel association is prepared for the challenge, whether through legal action or new legislation, to have the tax changed.

“It’s something that can be corrected,” he said. “It requires a corrective action by addressing it through legislation. It’s not unusual to deal with things in a corrective way.”

The hotel association did oppose the tax before the March primary through an information campaign to the local industry, he said. “We wanted to make clear what was happening with the tax,” Savarise said.

The association opposed the tax from the very beginning and were a part of the original discussions.

Savarise said voters passed the tax in March with the thought of “they don’t live here — who is going to care?”

However, when guests are checking out from a hotel, some are now questioning the bill, he said. “It’s all in black and white right in front of them,” Savarise said. “They become irritated and initiate an argument in the hotel (lobby).”

Four Points by Sheraton on Pulsar Place had displayed a sign in the lobby when the tax first was imposed, telling guests of the 3 percent increase on their bills. “I typed it up and stuck it out in the lobby,” said Catherine Easterlin, general manager of Four Points by Sheraton. “We have a lot of repeat guests and we wanted them to know of the increase before they saw it.”

Meanwhile, the hotels are collecting the tax. “The hotels are collecting and remitting the tax,” Savarise said.

County’s new bed tax under fire

By D. Anthony Botkin

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D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.