Debate over the TOT |

Debate over the TOT

Susan Wood

The idea of raising the transient occupancy tax to help offset a $2 million city budget shortfall was met with no shortage of reactions from the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association Thursday.

The lodging managers packed an Americana Village room for their monthly meeting to hear opinions on proposals to raise the 10 percent room tax, which accounts for 24 percent of the city’s budget.

City Manager Dave Childs has proposed a hike to 12 percent for non-redevelopment properties. The City Council will take up the matter in the coming weeks upon hearing recommendations from a budget review committee.

Committee members include Childs, Dennis Crabb, Deb Howard, Ed McCarthy, John Upton, Duane Wallace and lodging association President Charlie McDermid.

McDermid has proposed an 11 percent compromise for all properties across the board, with a sunset clause of two years. He suggested the money be earmarked for the general fund, “with the city to decide how to best spend it.”

“We’re all in this together,” McDermid told association members.

He also recommended city employees “chip in” to the budget shortfall in perhaps direct benefits, and the City Council take a more “proactive, responsive and aggressive role” in terms of motel property needs. He mentioned more support for the proposed convention center at Stateline and additional city beautification efforts.

Board member Cathy Colbert, who runs Inn By the Lake, said she wouldn’t be inclined to vote for a tax increase, not with the threat of declining tourism and an already slow year in motel bookings.

“I don’t think Tahoe has the reputation to carry the 12 percent (TOT),” she said.

“This is not the time to tax tourism,” said Jim Foff of the Fantasy Inn. “I’m already getting grief (about the TOT). They’ll look at the bills, walk out, and they’re astounded at the amount of tax.”

Foff suggested the city re-evaluate its level of budget reserves.

Other ideas included having the city take a closer look at the staffing among its 200 employees and alternative means of boosting revenue such as sign enforcement, utility taxes and sales tax increases.

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