Through a change in Mass. General Laws last year, the state gave communities the ability to increase their hotel and motel occupancy tax from 4 to 6 percent, and to bump the 6.25 percent tax on restaurant meals up to 7 percent.
The City Council voted to reject the local options tax increases in July 2009 even though a vote was not necessary. Councilors said the city should not impose additional taxes at such a financially difficult time.
But now, City Council President Arthur Vigeant is advocating for the additional 2 percent lodging tax. He said the funding would allow the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. to expand its outreach to businesses and help it draw in more companies.
Councilors referred discussion about the tax to the Legislative & Legal Affairs Committee on Monday, but not everyone supported the decision.
Councilor Paul Ferro accused the council of “flip-flopping” after unanimously rejecting the additional taxes last year. If the city wants to attract more business, he said, it should lower taxes and ease the regulatory burden.
“This isn’t a tax that we need,” he said.
Vigeant said Marlborough needs a full-time advocate who can meet with businesses and attract them to the city. The Marlborough Economic Development Corp. should take on the role of being an “incubator for (new) companies,” he said.
Ferro said he does not think the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. has accomplished its goals, and it does not need more money.
The organization was a driving force behind the $10 million grant the city received for upgrades to the Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, said Vigeant, a supporter of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. and member of its board of directors.
The revenue generated from the additional tax could also help fund “so-called frill items in the budget such as the parade, fireworks and other line items that year after year come under fire and are often on the ‘chopping block,”‘ Vigeant said in a Sept. 23 letter to the City Council.
The City Council voted last time on both the meals and lodging taxes – two different issues, Councilor Joseph Delano said. He praised last week’s business summit, which was co-sponsored by the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
“The devil will be in the details,” Delano said. “We can always say no later.”
All money received from the additional tax would go to the city’s general fund, with no guarantee it would go to the Marlborough Economic Development Corp., Ferro said.
Councilor Patricia Pope said she shares some of Ferro’s worries but does not oppose moving the discussion to committee. Pope said the Community Preservation Act is on Marlborough’s ballot in November, which, if approved, would add a 2 percent surcharge on annual property taxes.
The council should have had a longer discussion about the additional taxes last time, Councilor Donald Landers said.
Councilor Matt Elder also spoke out against the extra tax Monday night.
This story originally appeared here