Albany County’s hotel occupancy tax distribution debated

Legislators propose shifting funds from convention center but fail to gain support

— Some county legislators do not believe funneling more than $7 million annually toward Albany’s convention center and civic center is the best use of its hotel occupancy tax revenue.

The Albany County Legislature on Monday, May 12, voted 27-11 to continue the practice of handing over hotel and motel occupancy tax funds toward the proposed city convention center. The county’s adopted 2014 budget includes $7.64 million of revenue from the tax. Some legislators argued the funds could be better spent on programs or issues benefiting municipalities throughout the county, with others proposing to change course after the convention center is built.

Legislator Timothy Nichols, D-Latham, was first to speak against the distribution of funds and voted against it.

“In the past, I’ve supported keeping the 6 percent hotel tax because I support, overall, the concept of the convention center,” Nichols said.

This year’s adopted budget allocated nearly $5.1 million to the civic center’s debt service from the hotel tax revenue, which is around 65 percent. The remaining $2.54 million is evenly split with the Albany Convention Center Authority toward building the new convention center and the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, according to county spokeswoman Mary Rozak.

Nichols proposed using a portion of excess funds allocated to paying the county’s civic center debt service, commonly known as Times Union Center, to support non-profit, cultural and historical organizations countywide.

“All of which are in critical need of support, some even in desperate need of our support,” Nichols said. “A benefit that would benefit all of our towns, cities and villages.”

Only two Democratic legislators joined Nichols in opposition — Charles Dawson, of Glenmont, and Christopher Higgins, of Albany. Patrice Lockart, of Colonie, was the only Republican in attendance voting in support of the resolution.

Higgins, who supports the smaller convention center project, echoed Nichols’ call to distribute money to other initiatives, such as creating a county parks system.

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