Hotel tax numbers for July too low?

A bit of a puzzle
Fri, 10/20/2017 - 10:15am

Tourism Director Jessica Willi had a sobering number: $64,000. That was the amount of hotel tax directly collected from Block Island hotels and lodges during the month of July 2017. It was sobering because in July 2016, that number was $108,000. 

Because the state has reduced the amount of tax sent back to cities and towns, Willi expected a little reduction, but not that much. No one on the Tourism Council knew quite what to make of the figure.

“That was a scary number when it came in,” said Willi.

“Maybe someone big didn’t remit on time,” Willi guessed, meaning that one of the larger hotels may have not filed their returns in time for the July numbers to be released. (The formula to calculate what amounts are returned to the cities and towns where the taxes are collected is complicated and fractional.)

Willi went to see town Finance Director Amy Land to see what the hotel tax collected by the town looked like. 

“It was also low,” Land told The Block Island Times. “For July our hotel number was $69,267.” It was $103,902 in July 2016 and $79,771 for 2015. Land also said the July number might be incomplete. Willi said the state has a new tracking system for its tax figures. “Maybe its tracking things more efficiently, or less efficiently,” she said.

Willi and Land both said the numbers for August might complete the picture, once they come in.

Tourism Council President Zena Clark, who is in the hospitality business, said she was “surprised” by the low figure. 

“No need to panic yet,” said Willi, only half-jokingly.