Mayor Eric Papenfuse repeated his call for Dauphin County Commissioners to exercise their authority to suspend payments to the National Civil War Museum for misuse of hotel tax funds, noting Section 12 of the hotel tax ordinance clearly mandates the Commission’s approval of all disbursements.
“This is not a complicated legal question that requires weeks of review. It is fully within the commissioners’ authority to stop the National Civil War Museum’s misuse of hotel tax dollars on salaries and general expenses,” Mayor Papenfuse said. “Section 12 clearly states expenditures must be ‘approved by the Board of County Commissioners.’ They could end this abuse by simply withdrawing their approval.”
The Mayor and Harrisburg City Council members have asked commissioners to suspend payments to the National Civil War Museum, saying the museum is misusing hotel tax revenues, which should be used to promote the entire city and not just one facility.
Hotel tax revenues directed to the Civil War Museum must be used for “appropriate and reasonable marketing and promotional expenses of promoting tourism within the city of the third class (Harrisburg)” according to the last paragraph of Section 9 of the ordinance.
The Mayor also responded to questions about the city’s use of hotel tax revenue it receives directly from commissioners under a separate provision of the ordinance. Money directed to the Civil War Museum and money going directly to the City of Harrisburg have different regulations under the hotel tax ordinance, the Mayor said.
The provision regulating the city’s use of hotel tax revenues it receives directly allows a broader use and states they can be for “renovation, rehabilitation, extension, furnishing, equipping, substantial repair or construction of a tourism-related facility located with the city . . . including payment of the debt service on bonds issued for such projects.”
“The money the city receives directly from commissioners for tourism is less than the annual debt payments on bonds that helped originally construct the National Civil War Museum and other tourism related facilities,” the Mayor said. “I don’t think the public is aware that the city is still paying off debt for this venture.”
“That’s money that we don’t have to pay to fix potholes and to address other city services,” said Council President Wanda Williams.
“The bottom line is the Mayor and the City Council stand united in calling on the Dauphin County Commissioners to stop funding of the Civil War Museum,” she said. “Our voices should not be ignored.”
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