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Tuolumne Supervisors Propose Sales, TOT Tax Measures

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Sonora, CA – After robust public input over the subject of tax increases the Tuolumne supervisors voted staff recommendations to move forward.

During a 1:30 p.m. appointment time slated at Tuesday’s board meeting, the supervisors heard more staff research and findings, followed by public comments. The input eventually led to a 4-0 vote supporting preparing ballot tax increase initiatives for the March 2020 ballot.

Specifically, the two measures in progress are proposing that voters consider a 1% tax increase on sales from 7.25%, the base amount currently collected within the unincorporated area of the county along with a 2% increase in the existing 10% transient occupancy or TOT tax. In addition to raising the TOT, the tax would extend to camping and RV facilities. Overall. Staff estimates that doing both would bring an additional $6.3 million into the county coffers.

Board Chair Karl Rodefer prefaced the staff presentation by noting that in the State of California, the government cannot raise taxes. “Only people can raise taxes and they do that through an election,” he stated. “So, we are not talking about this board increasing taxes, what we talking about is trying to close an ever-changing divergence of our normal expected revenue increases with our normal expected cost increases — and what options we are going to put to the voters to determine in some potential future election.”

Supervisor John Gray lamented, “Our basic problem is our future is upon us immediately — we need money today, not tomorrow.” He added, “I think we have done a good job of managing the county’s money — if I didn’t, I certainly would not be in favor of any tax increase…the longer we wait, the deeper we go in the hole and fewer services we are able to offer.”

Vice-Chair Sherri Brennan maintained that the staff’s recommendations provided a balance between earlier higher increase proposals and were necessary to help maintain the provision of some essential services. She described the county’s position as a merry-go-round since the Great Recession with no way off without additional revenue inflow since operating costs continue to increase.

Many of the public comments came from local lodging operators who expressed concerns that visitor rates would drop off.

Ahead of the vote, Rodefer thanked the staff and the audience for a robust discussion. He remarked, “The reality is that it is up to us to paint the factual issue of why these [tax increase measures] make sense. Then, let the public and various entities duke it out on election day.”

It comes down, he said, to giving the public the option of whether they want the county to continue providing the level of services. “If they do, then there is a price to pay, and we need additional revenue.”