TOURISM Trumbull leaders amend hotel tax

Bids would be sought if an outside agency for tourism is the way to go.
WARREN -- The money to promote Trumbull County tourism will be in place next month -- and a new board or agency to do the job could be, too.
County commissioners on Thursday amended the 4 percent excise lodging tax, last changed about a year ago. At that time a dispute over board appointments and investment arose between the commissioners and Trumbull County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau.
Commissioners then yanked 2 percent of the tax away from the visitors bureau and gave all 4 percent to the Western Reserve Port Authority. Effective May 1, they'll take 2 percent away from the authority and put it in a new fund to make contributions to the county's newly organized convention and visitors bureau.
The previous bureau has shut down and moved out of its Youngstown-Warren Road office in Niles, putting its furnishings in storage.
New plans
Commissioners James Tsagaris and Daniel Polivka said commissioners hope to designate a new group for promoting the county in the next two weeks.
"It might be an arm of the commissioners' office, it might be an [outside] agency, or it might be a board," Polivka said.
A new board might include a few member holdovers from the last board, Tsagaris said.
The tax change allows continued collection of lodging tax for tourism. Summer events are coming up that will pump a lot of tourism dollars into the local economy, Polivka noted.
"We want to be prepared," he said.
Tsagaris said the county would seek bids if it's decided that an outside agency is the best approach.
Pending lawsuit
Commissioners cautioned that they and the previous visitors bureau board are still involved in a lawsuit. The visitors bureau operated on its reserves and suspended operations March 31, but the lawsuit will continue.
Commissioners and the visitors bureau never agreed on a requested $300,000 budget for 2004. Commissioners say they are the appointing authority, but the bureau's board appointed some new members last year. This is a breach of contract in the commissioners' view.
Commissioners say they viewed the bureau as a private corporate entity without accountability. They want a judge to determine that they are not obligated to the visitors bureau "in any way, shape or form for any future obligations of funding."

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