County Commissioners Initiate Room Tax Increase Process

SNOW HILL – County officials agreed to ask the state for the ability to raise the hotel room tax.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-2 to ask for a change in state law that would give the county the authority to increase the county room tax from 5% to 6%. The change is being pursued by the Town of Ocean City.

“They would request that the county commissioners support them in requesting our local delegation to change at the state level the ability to raise the room tax 1 percent,” said Weston Young, the county’s chief administrative officer. “They’re not asking to raise it 1% but the ability to raise it 1%.”

Mayor Rick Meehan last month sent the county a letter outlining the request, as the resort wants the ability to increase the room tax.

“The town is looking at future tourism-related expenses, including the potential investment by the town in a new indoor sports facility,” the letter reads. “The ability to increase the county room tax would allow us to plan accordingly for these future expenses.”

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic noted that the increase would not affect residents.

“This of course is a pass through to visitors of Ocean City,” he said.

He added that Ocean City’s room tax was lower than rates in many other destinations. He said Ocean City’s room tax was currently 5% while Rehoboth’s was 8% and Atlantic City’s was over 13%. He said the room tax was 8.5% in Philadelphia.

Commissioner Jim Bunting pointed out that the vote Tuesday was just to seek an amendment to state law so an increase could be pursued. If state law gets amended, a public hearing would be required to actually raise the rate.

“That has to be a unanimous vote,” Bunting said.

The commissioners voted 4-2, with Bunting and Commissioner Chip Bertino opposed, to request the state law change. Commissioner Bud Church was absent.

The state’s legislative session runs from Jan. 12 to April 11.

“This change in state legislation needs to be made now so that when, and if, it becomes necessary to increase the room tax to cover future expenses we are in a position to do so,” Meehan’s letter to the commissioners reads. “An increase in room tax would need to be done at the beginning of the calendar year, to accommodate the hospitality industry, and legislative changes become effective on July 1 of any given year.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.