Worcester’s trial balloon: Tax dorm rooms

Like almost every other Massachusetts municipality, Worcester is starved for revenue, and one city councilor has come up with a new source of tax dollars. From the Worcester Telegram‘s Lisa Welsh:

[City Councilor Michael] Germain suggested at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting extending lodging taxes to dormitory rooms as a way to raise revenue. City Solicitor David M. Moore was asked to report back on the legality of the issue, which Mr. Germain expects to happen on Feb. 17.

“Whenever we talk about the budget it’s the police, fire, DPW and teachers that are targeted,” Mr. Germain said. “Everybody is going to feel the hit here — the city services, the people who work here, the taxpayers. I thought there’s got to be a different way to approach it.”

If the tax goes through, Worcester (the “City on the Move“) would become the first city in the US to, in effect, put up a tollgate for people from outside the area who decide to continue their studies there. 

According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, no other municipality has a dorm-room tax.

“Given the nature of the lodging tax, when you and I check into a hotel room the bill is itemized and the individual pays the tax, so with a dorm tax any extra cost would be passed through to the families who are sending kids to college,” said Matthew W. Hamill, senior vice president of advocacy and issue analysis for NACUBO.

The Telegram reports that there were 8,891 students in university housing in 2005 (almost equal to the population of Freetown), mostly at Holy Cross (2,353), Assumption (1,962), and Clark (1,621).