By ED RUNYAN
In 2005, the revenue generated by Mahoning County’s hotel/motel tax provided the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport with about $400,000 for operating expenses — the same as Trumbull County.
But though Mahoning County’s revenue has remained steady since then, Trumbull County’s hotel/motel revenues dropped almost in half, to $225,000 last year.
The result is that what was intended to be a balanced funding source has become unbalanced and needs to be fixed, Trumbull and Mahoning county commissioners said at a rare joint commissioners meeting Tuesday.
George Tablack, Mahoning County administrator, gave credit to the Mahoning County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Mahoning County’s motels for the positive cash flow, which he said appears to be on pace to go higher in 2010 than in 2009.
Tablack noted that Mahoning County’s hotels appeared to be busy throughout last weekend, which featured the Tour of the Valley bicycle race and other events.
Phil Moore, executive director of the CVB said his agency has been successful in collecting the hotel/motel tax money in recent years with the help of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office and has been able to track tax payments in such a way that underpayments have been noticed quickly.
Paul Heltzel, Trumbull County commissioner, said after the meeting that Trumbull County may have to change the way it allocates hotel/motel money to the airport so that it can better match Mahoning County’s contribution toward airport expenses.
Currently, half of the county’s 4 percent hotel/motel tax goes to the port authority and half to the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau.
Mahoning County collects a 3 percent hotel/motel tax, giving 2 percent to the airport and 1 percent to the CVB.
Heltzel said Trumbull County also may be able to recoup more hotel/motel tax money through better tax tracking and collection methods.
Heltzel said he thinks it’s likely that Trumbull County’s hotel/motel tax collections have dropped as a result of the loss of the Phar-Mor ladies golf tournament held in Howland and Vienna until 2004, and the PONY Nationals softball tournament, which last played in the Mahoning Valley in 2008.
Certain Trumbull County hotels, such as Avalon Inn and the MetroPlex have especially suffered, he noted.
The commissioners also agreed to meet together again with members of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport, to discuss ways the counties can help the authority generate the money needed to make capital improvements.
Tablack said he wants airport officials to show him a business plan that demonstrates how the money for improvements will be repaid. Then, the counties can act as a conduit so that the airport can sell municipal bonds to borrow the money.