North Elba launches new grant fund with bed tax money

Virtual information meeting set for Jan. 5

LAKE PLACID — It’s been almost two years since officials at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism proposed using an extra 2% of Essex County’s occupancy tax for community development. And now — for the town of North Elba, at least — they are ready to explain how the program will be implemented in 2021.

When ROOST CEO Jim McKenna and Chief of Staff Mary Jane Lawrence sat down with the Lake Placid News on Feb. 22, 2019, they said increasing the occupancy tax — known informally as a “bed tax” — from 3% to 5% was needed in order to improve communities throughout the county.

“The tourism is only as good as a community,” Lawrence said at the time, “and we know we’re facing challenges areas like affordable housing, workforce and, to a certain extent, the quality of life.”

“If you don’t have a good community experience, you don’t have a good tourism experience,” McKenna added.

In April 2020, the Essex County Board of Supervisors approved the increase, which went into effect on June 1. The tax is collected on all hotel, motel, bed-and-breakfast and short-term vacation rental stays.

Of the 5% tax, 3% (minus administrative costs) goes toward ROOST and its tourism and marketing efforts for the county. The extra 2% is placed in a County Tourism Enhancement Fund, Lawrence said Monday, Dec. 28.

Each of the county’s 19 towns gets its own share of the tax based on a percentage of the tax collected. Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland said in April that towns would get a minimum of $20,000 each for community enhancement. It is up to each town to decide how to spend the money, according to Lawrence.

Lake Placid and the High Peaks Region — including the town of North Elba — collect the most amount of total occupancy tax every year for the county, meaning there is a lot of money to manage. Therefore, the town of North Elba has created a new program to distribute the funds — as community grants.

It is called the North Elba Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund (LEAF), and ROOST officials will be explaining the program during a virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5. Log in by computer at https://meetings.ringcentral.com/j/1484539367 (Meeting ID: 148 453 9367) or by phone at (470) 869-2200.

For more information, visit the ROOST website at https://www.roostadk.com/leaf.

North Elba LEAF details

(The following information was provided by ROOST.)

The North Elba Local Enhancement and Advancement Fund (LEAF) is a dedicated and ongoing fund available to nonprofits, local governments and public sector organizations within the town of North Elba.

Monies for the fund are derived from a dedicated 2% Essex County occupancy tax that was implemented by the Essex County Board of Supervisors in June of 2020.

The mission of LEAF is to provide funds for programs, activities and facilities that will have direct benefits to North Elba communities and improve the quality of place for both residents and visitors. Projects eligible must positively impact the community and its visitors by meeting the following criteria:

– Addresses a significant need of the community

– Will be executed by an organization that demonstrates sound administration and financial management

– Entails an initiative that will not depend on ongoing funding from LEAF

– Will be completed within a defined timeline

Applicants requesting $10,000 or more will be required to provide additional information as requested by the committee.

Grant approvals will be a two-step process. The North Elba LEAF committee, after due diligence in reviewing all eligible applications, will make recommendations to the North Elba Town Board for final approval. The North Elba LEAF committee will not exceed 11 members, and members will be approved by the town board. Committee support, grant administration and grant compliance will be provided by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST).

“We are extremely happy to see this project come to fruition,” North Elba Supervisor Jay Rand said in a press release. “The established and ongoing fund dedicated to advancing initiatives for the betterment of our communities will truly be a catalyst for advancing the town of North Elba as a place to live, a place to do business, and a place to visit.”

A committee of 11 members will represent a diverse range of business and community sectors within the town of North Elba. The committee is responsible for accepting and reviewing applications based on the scoring criteria, and will make award recommendations, as a committee, to the North Elba Town Board.

The committee members are Catherine Beamis, St. Agnes School principal, Wyatts/Eleanor’s Pasta Kitchen; Dick Cummings, town representative; Art Devlin, village representative; Matt Donahue, Adirondack Foundation; Chris Ericson, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Big Slide Brewery & Public House; Jim McKenna, Mary Jane Lawrence, ROOST representative; Andrew Milne, Saranac Waterfront Lodge; Val Rogers, community member; Jenn Webb, Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort; Andrew Weibrecht, Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa; and the community development director (to be hired).

A public information session will be hosted virtually at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 to provide an overview of LEAF, outline the application process, and answer any questions.

“Anyone who has questions, feels they have a project that may qualify, or simply wants to learn more about LEAF is encouraged to attend the public information session,” ROOST Chief Operating Officer Mary Jane Lawrence said in a press release.

Details on how to apply and the scoring criteria are now available at www.roostadk.com/leaf. Applications for the initial round of funding will be accepted between Jan. 1 and March 1.

The second round of applications will be accepted no later than Sept. 1 and approved by the town board no later than Nov. 1.

Requests not typically funded

– Grants for individuals

– Capital campaigns

– Deficit financing

– Endowments

– Political organizations or campaigns

– Lobbying legislators or influencing elections

– Fundraising events

– Core operating expenses for public sector, government, or not-for-profits

– Projects that are typically the funding responsibility of federal, state, or local governments

– Scholarship programs; however, exceptions are made for summer camp or afterschool program scholarships

– Projects that have already taken place

– Expenses already incurred

– Religious activities, including, but not limited to, religious services, promotion of religious beliefs, or activities that are restricted to church or religious group membership