Jeff Lehner is currently working with officials to build what he calls a more rational and efficient system before he is even sworn in as the Ross County auditor in March. The present bed tax is his current aim. Ross County’s existing bed tax ordinance dates back to 1982 and was last updated in 2013.
Hotel owners and other providers of short-term housing were among those mandated to pay the bed tax. In addition, the auditor’s office will get a cut of the action for their own administrative costs, as outlined in the code. The Ross-Chillicothe CVB’s executive director, Melody Young, recently stated that issues with the current tax had begun to arise due to the fact that some landlords were either not registering as a lodging facility or were registering but not paying the tax as necessary.
According to her, a startup receives a packet of material upon registration, one of which is a reminder that they are required to collect a 4.25 percent bed tax. According to Young, the CVB will receive more than $40,000 in 2020 from the bed tax collected from short-term accommodations; this money will be utilised to support the CVB’s efforts to promote tourism in the area.
Young added that she’d like not have to act as the “bed tax police” and instead establish positive relationships with the proprietors of all vacation rentals. Tourists can stay in the area for an extra night thanks to these accommodations. The rental owner also benefits from working with a CVB because of the CVB’s promotion of the rental to tourists.
The existing authority to assess a company’s bed tax liability lies with the Chillicothe auditor. Lehner, the former auditor, and Robyn Brewster, the current auditor, have both stated their disagreement with having such authority. Local owners of short-term rentals have been consulted alongside county officials.
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Since those in the industry are the ones responsible for collecting and paying this tax, Lehner has stated that he is open to hearing their feedback. Councilwoman Deidra Nickerson, who owns a rental property, has expressed interest in the tax because she thinks the county needs to get ahead of the problem now that it has been designated a World Heritage site.
Willis James innkeeper Stephanie Moore agrees, saying that setting out the guidelines for this fee now will save the county a tonne of money in the long run. In the end, the proposal will change the regulations so that the auditor has less authority but remains the administrator, freeing up the CVB’s time to focus on boosting tourism.
Along with the Ross County Commissioners and the Chillicothe Visitors Bureau, this would forge a direct partnership between all parties involved. The Ross County Convention and Visitors Bureau will notify new short-term rentals of the bed tax, and the Ross County Commissioners and Prosecutor will be responsible for enforcing the levy if necessary.
Some, including Lehner, think the current fine for failing to report and pay your bed tax should be higher than the current daily rate of one dollar. The new law increases the fine for failing to register and pay within the specified time frame for the quarter to $500. There will be a harsher penalty for repeat offenders within a given time period.
The goal of making the fine more than the regular tax amount is to urge individuals who aren’t paying to start doing so. Each year, the auditor’s office also receives about $9,000 in administrative fees from this tax, but Lehner and Brewster think the CVB might make better use of that money. So, under the new law, those funds will be reallocated to the promotion of tourism once again.
At the conclusion of this proposal’s development, it will be presented to the commissioners. Both Brewster and Lehner expressed a desire for these revised policies to take effect as quickly as possible to allow for any prospective new rental properties. Lehner, in particular, would like this to be finalised before he begins his tenure as auditor in the middle of March.
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