Monday, September 27, 2010


Auerbach Seeks Monies That Could Offset Property Taxes

KINGSTON, NY (September 27, 2010)… Ulster County has a modest hotel-motel occupancy tax and Comptroller Elliott Auerbach wants to ensure that it stays that way. Ulster’s Finance Department currently collects a 2% “bed tax” as compared to neighboring counties who have tax rates of four (4 ) and five (5) percent and Auerbach wants to keep it at that level so that Ulster County resorts remain competitive.

What the Comptroller has issue with are the dozens of cases of unreported, under-reported, delinquent and uncollected taxes from hotels, motels, beds and breakfasts, inns and vacation homes that have not met their obligations. Earlier this year, David OHalloran, chairman of the county’s lodging coalition estimated that “there are some places that do not collect the tax like they’re supposed to.” He estimated that “30-40 hotels and probably 100 percent of vacation home rentals” don’t pay.

Auerbach agreed when he pointed out that according to a 2009 study by Tourism Economics, visitors in Ulster County spend $167 million on lodging in 2009. “By my calculation two percent of that $167 million is $3.3 million in revenue yet the County’s Annual Financial Reports for 2008 and 2009 indicate revenues of $1,025,522.00 and $964,038.00 respectively.

“Our Revenue Trends report released in July 2010 raises the bar on the importance of focusing on revenues,” said Comptroller Auerbach, “we are in no position to be leaving this money on the table. We conducted a search of hotel/motel properties in the County and found ninety (90) not on the County’s master list.”

“Within the test group of 23,” said Auerbach, “we found that 96 opportunities to generate revenue were missed.” The review found a pattern of failures to send late notices, level penalties, or charge interest to operators who did not file, did not file timely, and did not file complete returns.

“There are issues of equity as well,” said the Comptroller, “we have operators who are diligently collecting and paying the tax and it is not fair that others should skate by and either avoid the tax altogether or just file returns whenever they want.”

One of the report’s recommendations is for the Department of Finance to coordinate with the Health Department on identifying properties that need to be brought current and into compliance with the law.

The Comptroller said that the next step for his office will be to audit tax returns filed by operators.


Anonymous said...

How about a conflict of interest policy that would prohibit local building inspectors from owning contracting businesses within their own jurisdictions? Getting the crooked Coleman clan out of Wawarsing would be very popular right now. Building inspectors elsewhere are routinely fired for this kind of activity. Wawarsing needs help getting things cleaned up, not abusive criminals obstructing progress.

Elliott Auerbach said...

Go to your local town board and see if they have adopted a whistle blower law similar to the one that my office initiated in the county.
This may give you and other people the opportunity to step forward without the fear of retaliation.
Here is a synopsis:

Auerbach first identified the need for County whistleblower protections in his March 25, 2009 “Internal Control Baseline Report” which assessed the effectiveness of internal controls within County departments. The report recommended whistleblower protection to protect individuals from retaliation if they report misconduct.

“We have seen a number of instances this year where if people felt assured they would not suffer retaliation for speaking up,” explained Auerbach, “problems may have been resolved or mitigated without the time, expense and disruptions caused by lawsuits. The Legislature’s leadership tonight contributes to improving internal control structure of Ulster County Government.”

Anonymous said...

I'm not afraid of any retaliation. The town board is already aware of it and so is Lenny. The corruption on the local level is the real issue here. As Mrs.Dumond famously stated years ago "That's the way we've always done it and that's the way it will always be." It has to be addressed at the county or state level.

Anonymous said...

Extrapolating a simple analytic analysis like this and making claims about revenue sortfalls without auditing and investigating the details is mere election year posturing. Furthermore, what type of authority is a study published by Tourism Economics, to base these clamis?

Anonymous said...

Claims of shortfalls are always worth investigating. Any revenues not collected bear down on proerty owners. These property owners deserve to be protected from scammers. If one tenth of these shortfalls are realized then this issue is worthy of scrutiny. I'm very happy somebody has the balls to stand up for the regular people. Calling this an election year stunt is an insult to the voters. Apparently, Mr. Auerbach's opponent feels no empathy with the middle class.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely the shortfalls are worth investigating, and after the investigation/audit is completed and results are quantified, then an article/release such as this should come out. The timing of this release however, and the article in the Freeman, seem like a September/October (election time) ploy to get some positive free press. At this point there is no substance to this whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I think its important to be clear about the conditions that one has to collect occupancy tax. My grandmother takes in short-term boarders looking for a room in her home to pay her outrageous property taxes. Should she charge occupancy tax?