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By James Roxbury
Sunday August 03, 2014 at 10:11 am

During the period of 2001 and 2008 Dauphin county commissioners passed legislation enacting a hotel tax beginning with a base of 2% and rising to the total of 5%.

The total tax revenue for the year 2013 collected by the county is $9,725,113, on Wednesday July 30, 2014 Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse appeared before Dauphin county commissioners Haste, Hartwick and Pries to question how tourism grants funded by the hotel tax are awarded by the commissioners.

The numbers:

5% Dauphin County Hotel Tax received by the Office of the Treasurer.

2013 $9,725,113

2012 $9,074,074

2011 $8,900,895

2010 $8,421,423

2009 $8,214,915

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse appeared before Dauphin county commissioners Wednesday morning with copies of a Tourism Promotion Agreement and First Amendment contracts between the City of Harrisburg and the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau.

The original contract (Tourism Promotion Agreement) is dated June 26, 2008 and signed by Mary Smith Executive Director of Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, Randy King (former COS for mayor Steve Reed) Chairman HHRVB, Stephen R. Reed Mayor, James J. McCarthy Controller, and Steven Dade Solicitor.

The First Amendment To Tourism Promotion Agreement is dated October 22, 2009 and signed by the same parties except for city solicitor Steven Dade who was replaced by Philip Harper the City Solicitor in 2009.

Please consider freezing the payments that go to HHRVB to promote the tourism in the City of Harrisburg.

This unwise long term agreement.

Every time you pay to park in Harrisburg, you are paying bond debt from the creation of this museum.

Mayor Reed signs another long term contract just before he leaves office.

Dauphin County Hotel Tax was enacted January 1, 2001 Ordinance No. 3-1999 imposed a 2% hotel room tax which stayed in effect until April 1, 2002 when the tax rate was increased to 3%.

Ordinance No. 3-2002 repealed and replaced Ordinance No. 3-1999 the tax remained at the 3% rate until March 1, 2008 when Dauphin county commissioners George Hartwick, Nick DiFrancesco, and Jeff Haste passed Ordinance No. 1-2008 which repealed Ordinance No. 3-2002 and increased the room tax to 5%


A breakdown of the tax.

The first 2% of the tax.

20% to the City of Harrisburg. 70% to the Derry Township Industrial Authority.

10% to Dauphin County Economic Development Corporation to be remitted to the Hershey Harrisburg Region Vacations Bureau.


The next 1% of the tax.

The entire tax revenue is distributed at the discretion of the county commissioners and to be used solely for tourism and regional promotion purposes. DCED administers the revenue from the 1% tax, DCED had transfers from Dauphin County of $2,140,139 in 2012.

Dauphin county commissioners voted to approve 2014 Tourism Grants during the Wednesday February 12, 2014 board meeting, the grants totaled more than $1.5 million.

How the 2014 1% tax was distributed.

2014 Tourism Grants (1%):

1. Dauphin County Parks & Recreation - $75,000

2. Dauphin County DCED - $250,000

3. Harrisburg Regional Chamber - $75,000

4. Big 33 - $100,000

5. Administrative Support (Audit) - $15,000

6. Parks & Recreation (Special Events) - $150,000

7. Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau - $250,000

8. Whitaker Center - $100,000

9. Modern Transit Partnership - $60,000

10. National Civil War Museum - $50,000

11. Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau (Wine Country) – $50,000

12. Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau (Brew Country) - $50,000

13. Historical Society - $40,000

14. Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra - $12,500

15. Harrisburg Young Professionals - $5,000

16. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central PA - $5,000

17. Ned Smith - $5,000

18. Gratz Fair - $5,000

19. Jump Street - $40,000

20. Friends of Jazz - $15,000

21. Invica - $20,000

22. City Islanders - $75,000

23. Susquehanna Riverboat - $24,000

24. St. Patrick’s Day Parade Association - $10,000

25. PA National Horse Show Foundation - $25,000

26. Parks & Recreation Fort Hunter African American Cemetery - $12,000

27. Parks & Recreation Open Stage

Council on Humanities - $25,000

28. Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau (Future Stars) - $18,000

29. Youth Step USA, Inc. - $10,000

30. Hershey Junior Bears - $10,000

31. Gamut - $3,000

32. Harrisburg DID - $10,000

AA. 2014 Tourism Grant (2%): 1. Lykens Chamber of Commerce - $2,000


The remaining 2% tax.

50% to the Hershey Harrisburg Region Vacations Bureau (HHRVB) solely for tourism and regional promotion purposes.

12.5 % to (HHRVB) to be used for tourism and regional promotion within the City of Harrisburg.

37% to the Derry Township Industrial Authority for the purpose of the improvement, support, rehabilitation, revitalization, or construction of one or more tourism-related facilities.

From the minutes of February 13, 2008 Dauphin County Commissioners Meeting.

A. Ordinance #1-2008 Hotel Tax.

(***A VOTE IS REQUESTED 2/13/08***)


A. Barry Wickes, President of PA Tourism.

Randy Stuart, GM of Holiday Inn Harrisburg/Hershey.

Mary Smith.

1. Ordinance #1-2008 – Hotel Tax

Mr. Stuart: My name is Randy Stuart and I represent the Dauphin County Lodging Association. I’m the President and we are in support of the 2% County tax increase.

The importance of this additional surplus of income for the tourism is critical in our ongoing efforts to promote tourism in the region. $1.1 million is in excess of what we do in the Dauphin County area. 15% of the workforce is represented by tourism. We are excited about the over 50% revenue we are going to generate as a result of this 2% County tax increase. Thank you.

Ms. Smith: I’m Mary Smith with the Hershey/Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. The additional dollars generated will help us make an impact in tourism, promoting and direct selling and marketing of the Hershey/Harrisburg Region.

It not only promotes the tourism aspect, but also the meetings, conventions and sporting events. We should see a huge increase and impact in our ability to go out and market this as a number one destination in the State of Pennsylvania. So, thank you.

Mr. Wickes: I’m Barry Wickes, Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association. On a state level there are only four counties in the Commonwealth that don’t impose hotel room taxes today. Again, I would like to reiterate what Mary and Randy had said the importance of having those marketing dollars dedicated to promote the tourism product here in Dauphin County and the capital region.

Mr. DiFrancesco: This is kind of an unusual situation. I’m not a big fan of increasing taxes, but this morning I have to tell you that this is a good day in Dauphin County culminating from four years of working together with the hoteliers and the tourism industry to really try to get us on track. For far too long we were not on track. There was some clashing going on between the two and tourism is such a major industry.

It is so important to this community as you have already stressed. This action that we take today really gives all of us, the entire team, the opportunity to promote this area even more to get more people brought into this area.

That is the beautiful part about this in that the local residents really don’t feel the full brunt of this. It is the folks that come in from the outside. It gives us the opportunity to go out and market it at such a higher level to really show the people outside what we have to offer here in Dauphin County and the Central Pennsylvania region.

I really look forward and I’m very impressed with what I have seen out of the Tourism Bureau. The hoteliers have always been a great partner with us. They have always been very supportive and we try to respond back to them as well because they are so critical to the economy. I think we are going to see tremendous results as a result of the action we take today.

I want to thank you all for the effort that you do every single day. We keep getting better and better. The market here and what we have to offer, people coming in from the outside, conventions and so forth, keeps getting better and better. You guys are doing a great job of promoting that.

Mr. Hartwick: The one thing that I would like to say and I apologize for being late, but with delays and trying to get all my family to where they needed to go was such a challenge. I don’t know what it is about cartoons and kids being mesmerized and not listening, but it was a challenge getting out of the house this morning.

When we first ran for office I know we met with the Hotel Association and a number of folks and the amount of investment that Dauphin County was providing at that time was about $200,000. That was clearly not enough. We are not the professionals. We wanted to make sure that we are engaging people who understand the highest and best use of their dollars in order to maximize the ability to get a good return on the investment and get more heads on beds.

I believe today’s commitment is $1.4 million. That is a significant commitment from this Board and it shows the confidence that we have in the professionals, the hoteliers who actually know when the ups and downs of their seasons are and maybe coordinating that with our Parks & Recreation Department in making sure that as we promote events we are thinking about the hotels and to try to assist you in your business plan. We understand who is obviously driving the show as it relates to tourism.

We are very appreciative of the increased numbers and we look forward to working with you and this is a successful step in the right direction. We expect to see a whole lot of return for the investment. Thank you.

Mr. Haste: I’ll just thank you and if you want to mark Friday at 10:00 a.m. for a press conference. Ms. Smith: We do. We have a press conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Friday in the Lobby of the Hilton.

All I can say is it is a sweet launch followed by another press event that will take place on March 13, 2008 at Hollywood Casino. The exact time of that has not been confirmed, but it will be around 5:00 p.m.

It was moved by Mr. DiFrancesco and seconded by Mr. Hartwick that the Board adopt Ordinance #1-2008, which imposes a 5% hotel tax.

Mr. Saylor: Before you cast your vote I just wanted to note for the record that although the voting is today, the tax will be effective March 1, 2008 and I believe our Treasurer is preparing correspondence to go out to all the folks who will be impacted by this tax to inform them of such.

Question: Mr. Haste – Aye; Mr. DiFrancesco – Aye and Mr. Hartwick – Aye; motion carried.

Photo/Natalie Cake

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