Tuolumne Moves Transient Occupancy Tax Measure Forward
Sonora, CA — Despite concerns raised by members of the lodging industry, Tuolumne County will ask voters to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax in November.
If approved, the tax paid by visitors to hotels would go from the current 10-percent to 12-percent. In addition, it would also be expanded to RV parks and campgrounds (currently they are not taxed). However, it cannot legally be applied to campgrounds on state or federally owned lands.
Frank Helm, owner of Dodge Ridge said the supervisors were making a “big mistake” by moving this item forward, especially after a similar measure went down in defeat in March.
Cindy Zelinsky, who owns several local businesses, like the Lazy Z Resort, and Emberz, also spoke concerns, noting that she feels taxing campgrounds would feel like being taxed to visit our backyards. She stated, “If you want to be successful with this, you have to have community support, and I think it is going to be very hard to find community support at this time.”
Teri Marshall of Rush Creek Lodge was also critical about various aspects of the measure.
After the public comment period ended, supervisor Karl Rodefer said he was “torn” and saw both sides of the issue.
Supervisor Ryan Campbell then argued that new revenue from the TOT would help tourism by funding things like law enforcement, fire and roads. He also notes that many in the community want to continue library and recreation programs. He stated, “You cannot cut your way to prosperity and we need new revenue sources.”
Supervisor Anaiah Kirk has been against the tax measure from the start, and stated that he continues to be opposed, citing the poor economy, California already being high taxed, and wanting to focus the county’s energy instead on a special fire dedicated parcel tax measure in the spring.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Sherri Brennan said she was reluctant to support the TOT increase, and indicated the timing is bad, given the economic downturn, and a similar measure recently failing. However, the next time the county can put a TOT increase on the ballot would be during the election of 2022. On the matter of adding campgrounds to the tax, she noted that law enforcement and fire need additional revenue, and pointed out that a vegetation fire over the weekend near the Donnell Vista was started by an escaped campfire. All things considered, she expressed support.
Supervisor Rodefer then stated that the remarks by Brennan and Campbell convinced him to also vote in favor.
The roll call vote was 4-1.
A similar measure was approved last night for the city of Sonora, so both the city and county will have TOT increases on the November General Election ballot.