The 3-0 vote yesterday by Commissioners Steven Arndt, Carl Koebel, and John Papcun means small bed-and-breakfasts and guest houses will begin paying the tax Jan. 1.
The county has collected a 3 percent tax on establishments with five or more rooms since 1986.
County Administrator Jere Witt said the new levy eliminates the disparity between smaller and larger inns.
“We asked for a recommendation from the visitors bureau, and their reasoning was this levels the playing field for everybody,” he said.
“Everybody's paying the same rate, and everybody gets the same benefits.”
Jamie Kochensparger, director of the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The current levy generates about $450,000 a year. Two-thirds of the receipts go to the visitors bureau, which uses the money to promote tourism. The rest is shared by townships and villages that don't levy their own bed taxes.
Mr. Witt said receipts from the new tax will be divided the same way, though it's unclear how much that will be.
“We don't have a handle on how many establishments are out there that are less than five,” he said. “There's no good gauge to see what this does amount to.”
Establishments that pay the tax benefit from the visitors bureau's promotion efforts, Mr. Witt said. For instance, a service at the visitors bureau steers callers to inns with available rooms.
“If you're already paying the bed tax, that's a free service to you,” Mr. Witt said.
Mr. Arndt said many bed and breakfast owners requested the tax so they could take advantage of visitors bureau marketing efforts. Some told the commissioners they've been voluntarily paying the tax.
“They receive a direct benefit,” Mr. Arndt said. “If you're a very small bed and breakfast, how many dollars do you spend to try to market yourself? But with the 3 percent tax, you get referral services to your facility, plus national marketing. It's almost like paying dues or a membership fee.”
Mr. Arndt said the commissioners heard no opposition to the tax.