Process Launched To Increase Local Room Tax Cap

SNOW HILL – Worcester County is continuing efforts to seek enabling legislation that would allow for an increase in the room tax.

The Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to send a letter to other code counties seeking their support for legislation to increase the room tax cap. Legislation at the state level to increase the room tax cap is required before Ocean City can increase the rate from its current 5%.

“A little over a year ago we received a letter from Ocean City looking to raise the cap,” Chief Administrative Officer Weston Young said. “It requires legislation at the state level to do so.”

Last year, the commissioners, at the request of the Town of Ocean City, began working with the Eastern Shore Delegation to get enabling legislation from the Maryland General Assembly that would allow the county to raise its room tax threshold from 5% to 6%. Officials discovered, however, that the Maryland State Constitution required Worcester to obtain approval from the other code “home rule” counties on the Eastern Shore—Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. According to the state’s website, code “home rule” empowers counties with broad legislative authority and limits the General Assembly’s local legislative powers.

“Given the time and effort necessary to coordinate support from these other code counties, we opted to wait until the following legislative session to pursue this effort,” Young wrote in a memo to the commissioners. “Recently, I have informally discussed this with my counterparts in the other Eastern Shore code counties, who understand that enabling legislation is not a mandate to raise the room tax 1% beyond the current cap, and they have not voiced any concerns from their commissioners.”

Young presented the commissioners Tuesday with the draft of a letter to formally request the code counties on the Eastern Shore support Worcester County’s endeavor. It cites the fact that hotel room tax revenues provide a dedicated source to fund tourism and tourism related activities.

Commissioner Jim Bunting asked if an actual room tax increase in Worcester County would still be subject to commissioners’ approval if the enabling legislation was passed. Young said that was correct and that even if the cap was increased to 6% a unanimous vote of the commissioners would still be required to actually increase the room tax rate in Worcester County.

The commissioners voted unanimously to send the letter to the other code counties seeking their support for increasing the room tax threshold.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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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.