Lancaster convention center report: Raise hotel tax

May 17. 2012 10:00AM - Last modified: May 17. 2012 10:58AM

Tim Stuhldreher

The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority posted on its website Wednesday the full report on its operations and finances prepared by its consultant.

The lead author of the report on the Lancaster County Convention Center's finances recommended raising the hotel tax and seeking other revenue sources to help bring the center out of financial trouble.

The authority commissioned the report, "Analysis of the Operations and Sales of the Lancaster County Convention Center," at the direction of Wells Fargo, the bank that holds its bonds. The report was prepared by Convention Sports & Leisure International.

The report formed the basis for the presentation last week at which CSL principal John Kaatz, the report's lead author, recommended raising the county hotel tax in the short term and seeking other revenue sources in the medium term as a way to shore up the convention center's finances.

The hotel tax is supposed to cover the convention center's operating losses and bond payments, but has proved insufficient to do so. In April, after the convention center's bond reserves fell short of required minimums, the facility began receiving a portion of the hotel tax previously directed to the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau for tourism promotion.

The latter organization is finalizing its own report on the convention center. The bureau was holding a board meeting this week, and further details will be forthcoming, President Chris Barrett said in an email.

County hoteliers are adamantly opposed to raising the hotel tax, saying it would hurt their business and the convention center is not an asset to them.

County commissioners have authority to raise the 3.9 percent tax to a maximum of 5 percent. The county also imposes a 1.1 excise tax that funds the visitors bureau.

The website on which the CSL report is posted is a revised and expanded one that debuted at the end of March. The authority is using the website "to accommodate the need to supply current information to media, stakeholders and community," Executive Director Kevin Molloy said.

The authority has since posted a number of key documents about the center and the adjoining hotel, including lease agreements, food and beverage agreements, management agreements and county debt guarantees.