MAYVILLE - Lawmakers passed a local law amendment Wednesday while rejecting another one.
During their full-body meeting in Mayville the legislature passed an amendment that will give renters unaware or unwilling to comply with the county's 5 percent occupancy tax law until Dec. 31, 2012, to register their properties with the county finance department.
Those who register will not be penalized for past-due payments.
The amnesty period, sponsored by George Borrello, R-Irving, is designed to get more renters to come forward - a move, he said, could generate thousands of dollars in additional revenue.
"This is an amnesty program that will allow bungalow owners, people that own cottages or so forth, ... to register and begin collecting and paying occupancy tax," Borrello said, noting that many who rent out their properties are unaware the tax exists.
"Basically there has been a very poor communication of this occupancy tax," he continued. "There was originally a bungalow exemption when this tax was first passed, which was then withdrawn two years later. And I'm sure it created a lot of confusion."
The amendment was drafted after Susan Marsh, county finance director, said she would start penalizing those not collecting and remitting their taxes after the latest push by the county for compliance.
Marsh has stated she would support such an amendment if it meant more renters would register with the county. She also noted that she never intended to penalize anyone who came forward now.
The local law change, which passed unanimously in committees last week, again sailed through the legislature without any opposition.
The same, however, could not be said for a change to the County Charter. A local law amendment that would have required a two-thirds, supermajority vote to allocate any monies out of the county's fund balance was rejected by lawmakers.
As was the case in committee, the amendment was met with mixed reaction, with legislators generally split on the subject. Those in favor of a charter change alluded to a resolution sponsored last month by Minority Leader Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown, that called for an allocation of $200,000 from the fund balance.
Cornell has stressed that the allocation was needed to protect Chautauqua Lake, and considered her solely back resolution to be emergent. Lawmakers eventually allocated $50,000 out of the fund balance to the Chautauqua Lake Association with another $30,000 coming from a portion of the county's emergency lake fund.
"I was the one quoted as saying we shouldn't have to protect ourselves from ourselves," said Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia. "It's interesting that I also voted against giving money to the lake. I'm seeing a different spin on this."
Scudder, who in committee said he opposed the change, noted that he would support the measure.
Some legislators were more blunt with their support.
"This is not protecting ourselves from ourselves, this is protecting the taxpayers from ourselves," Borrello said.
Other lawmakers, meanwhile, noted that spending money out of the fund balance should be done in emergency situations only.
"To me when you start monkeying with your fund balance, taking monies out or adjusting your fund balance, you should only do that in an emergency situation," said Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown. "And I believe for an emergency you have to have a super majority if a piece of legislation comes through."
Although more lawmakers expressed support for the County Charter amendment than not, the amendment failed 12 to 13, well short of the required 17 super majority votes needed to pass.