Nov 30, 2018
by Jeniffer Wertz, Russian River Advocates
There is always a lot of talk about how the West County generates the lion’s share of the Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT tax. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s a bed tax that hotels and vacation rentals in Sonoma County charge their guests. It was 9% of the rental rate until Measure L was approved by the voters in 2016, which increased the tax rate to 12%. It’s important to remember the additional 3%, or Measure funds, are supposed to be used to offset the impacts of tourism on our communities; however per State law the original 9% is discretionary.
The 5th District that encompasses the unincorporated Lower River resort and Coastal areas generates about 40% of the approximately $18.3m a year in TOT tax, not including the additional $4m generated by AIRBNB throughout the entire County. The total TOT revenue to the County including AIRBNB for fiscal year 2017-18 is about $22.3m, however the additional $4m in AIRBNB revenue is not broken down by district, therefore it is difficult to determine how much of that is being generated by the 5th District. It would likely bump up the number to about 47%, or $10.5m.
The allocation breakdowns (as best that it could be determined based on the reports provided) indicate the money is distributed approximately in the following ways:
The Board of Supervisors primarily discussed and agreed that the TOT tax allocation is too complicated and needs to be updated and simplified. The Board agreed to postpone the matter to be revisited after the 1st of the year.
After attending the meeting, asking all the questions, and reviewing all the reports provided, I’m left with the same question I started with. How much of the approximately $10.5m in TOT tax that the 5th District generates is being spent in the 5th District. The answer is, I don’t know…and that’s the point. Maybe we should try to get this question answered?
If you would like to be notified when the TOT tax issue is again addressed by the BOS, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. When contacting the Board of Supervisors, remember – it’s not just our 5th District Supervisor that we have to convince, as that is just one vote. E-mails should be addressed to all five Supervisors.
If you would like to learn more about the Lower River Area Community Alliances, become involved as a volunteer, or if you have some community concerns or solutions you would like to share, you can “like” our Guerneville Community Alliance and/or Russian River Alliance FB pages, or visit our website at www.russianriveralliance.org. You can also contact Jeniffer Wertz at 707-483-7038 (Guerneville), or Chuck Ramsey at 707-239-1639 (Monte Rio).
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