An extra tax on hotel stays has hotel owners in some Jersey Shore towns saying an extra fee could turn customers away.
A single night’s stay at any motel in Brick incurs a 7 percent sales tax, a 5 percent state occupancy tax and lastly a 3 percent local hotel occupancy tax.
The state allows municipalities decide whether they want to impose that extra tax. Scott Pezarras, Brick Township Business Administrator says the local government implemented the hotel surcharge to provide property tax relief for homeowners. With the new 2 percent cap on property taxes, he says every little bit of money that isn’t coming from local taxpayers helps. Since 2008, they’ve collected over $22,000.
“It’s about $5,000 annually,” says Pezarras. “It goes into the general treasury and falls to the bottom line. “So in effect, it’s already giving property tax relief to the tax payers because we use that as part of our surplus balance that we anticipate for the following year’s budget,” explains Pezarras.
There are about 190 municipalities in New Jersey that impose the hotel occupancy tax. It’s been in effect since 2003 and the local taxes can range up to 3 percent. But not every shore community thinks it will help their bottom line.
John Camera, Seaside Heights Borough Administrator, says hotel guests are taxed enough. According to Camera, motel owners are already paying their fair share, including yearly fees for a mercantile license and rental permits.
“By staying modest, I think we attract people and every little bit can help and every little bit can hurt,” says Camera. “So another little tax, even though its a small amount, if that makes some people shy any from here, that then affects people, our economy.”
Motel Manager Alice Lauterbach agrees that any additional hotel charges would turn tourists away. “people are so upset when we tell them … we’re adding 12 percent and now another tax would just destroy us.”
Hershey Motel owner Stacy Pollara says a local tax would have a trickle down effect and ultimately hurt every business in town. She fears the extra tax will deter people from staying for more than day. “If there’s a tax, they may come just for the day and they may just go to the beach and go home. So they’re not spending money on the boardwalk, they ‘re not spending money at the hotels and the restaurants.”
Camera says Seaside Height has no plans to impose the tax, whereas Pezarras insists the fee won’t negatively impact tourism in Brick and it will continue to save taxpayer money.
Reporting from Brick Township, Lauren Wanko files this report.