Increase to Douglas County room tax may reach voters in November |

Increase to Douglas County room tax may reach voters in November

Adam Jensen

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. – Douglas County voters may have a say in whether to raise the county’s hotel room tax this fall.

On Thursday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners directed staff to develop an advisory question for possible placement on the November ballot that asks voters if they favor increasing the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax from 10 percent to 13 percent to support tourism development and parks and recreation facilities in the county.

Whether or not the advisory question will make it to the ballot will be determined by the board of commissioners during a March meeting.

Lodging operators have traditionally been opposed to increases in Transient Occupancy Tax, but have been more receptive to this potential increase, said Bill Chernock, the Executive Director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority.

“They prefer not to (increase the Transient Occupancy Tax), but they understand the need,” Chernock said.

Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, called the increase to Douglas County’s Transient Occupancy Tax “extremely important.”

Transient Occupancy Tax revenues in Douglas County have been in decline since 2000 and the drop in tax revenues has “significantly affected” Douglas County’s ability to provide services, said County Manager T. Michael Brown on Thursday.

But, even if the question makes it to the November ballot and is approved by voters, the Nevada legislature has the final say when it comes to changing room tax rates.

Increasing the hotel room taxes in Clark and Washoe counties has recently been eyed by state legislators as a way to alleviate Nevada’s budget problems.

If the Nevada legislature approves Douglas County’s vision for the potential increase during their 2011 session, more than $1.3 million could be generated for the county annually.

The money would be split between Douglas County tourism promotion organizations, like the visitors authorities, and maintaining the county’s parks and recreation facilities, including Kahle Community Center in Stateline. Some of the money could also go to the construction new parks and recreation facilities.

Approval of the potential advisory question by voters would send a message to the Nevada legislature that residents of Douglas County want to keep room tax dollars local, said Commissioner Doug Johnson.

Douglas County staff will present information on the possible ballot question during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners in the Carson Valley in February.

Commissioners approved a 4 percent pay increase for County Manager T. Michael Brown.

The commissioners agreed Brown’s work since March 2008 deserved the maximum 6 percent pay increase, but budget concerns kept them from giving him the full amount.

Brown, whose salary was $126,859 in 2009, said he will give the pay raise back to the county for grants supporting local nonprofit groups.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that will increase certain rates, fees and charges for the Zephyr Water Utility District, which serves several communities in the Zephyr Cove area.

The resolution will create a 14 percent increase in the cost of services from the utility district effective Feb. 1.

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