Letter to the editor- Increasing the TOT will help
To the editor:
Hello, Tahoe. It is me, Stephen C. Reinhard, here with a different perspective for you to look at when you decide about the possible raising of the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax). I felt compelled to offer my point of view and ideas after reading of the lodging association’s reaction at their monthly meeting to the city manager’s suggestion of raising the TOT. Mr. Foff suggests, “this is not the time to tax tourism,” but I say this is precisely who we want to tax.
The city, as we all know, is in dire financial straits and since 24 percent of the city’s budget comes from the TOT, an increase to competitive market levels is the logical way to go. Arguably, Reno is our closest competitor for tourist nights and they are currently in the process of raising their TOT to 13-1/2 percent from their current 12 percent. What I suggest would eliminate the need to charge you property taxes for snow removal equipment – another suggestion of the city manager. The TOT hasn’t been raised across the board since the ’80s and other resort communities (i.e. Monterey, Berkeley, Santa Barbara and Sacramento) are at 12 percent. I would raise the TOT to 13 percent across the board with a 10-year moratorium on any more increases. Of the 3 percent increase, 2 percent would go to the general fund to help with the budget shortfall and 1 percent would be specified for snow removal equipment. To specify funds it would require a two-thirds vote of the South Lake Tahoe city residents. Ms. Colbert states she wouldn’t be inclined to vote for a tax increase, but since she and Mr. McDermid both make their residence in the Carson Valley, they have forfeited all their say in the matter. It is understandable for them to protect their financial bottom lines, but this is a decision for the residents to decide and not be swayed by outside forces. By raising the TOT, all we are really doing is grabbing a slightly larger piece of the money that is already being spent around Tahoe. My way only adds $3 per $100 of room rate, which over a three-night stay is less than one roll of quarters that is currently spent at the casinos.
I have worked on the front line in the hotel industry for eight years and it’s the room rate that decides whether or not the guest stays, not the amount of the tax. Tahoe lodging properties appear eager to take the city’s money for their projects like the convention center and other beautification/redevelopment efforts, but when asked to chip in by changing a tax that hasn’t been changed in decades, all you hear is how they can’t afford it. It is ridiculous to suggest hardworking city employees “chip in” some of their benefits when the shortfall can be covered by letting the tourist pay for it.
Reducing the city’s budget reserves would just be perpetuating the current situation, not solving it. The budget review committee will make a recommendation to the City Council in the upcoming weeks about what to raise the TOT to and the amount of voter approval needed to get it to pass. Since these meetings and council sessions are almost impossible for the average working person to make, I suggest calling the people on the budget review committee and/or whatever City Councilmember you relate to and telling them you want the specified 3 percent TOT increase and nothing tacked on to your property taxes for snow removal equipment.
While most things that the City Council does seem predecided, this one is in the beginning stages and you can make a difference by voicing your opinion to the people in charge. This revenue increase would benefit the city immensely without a noticeable inconvenience to our hotel guests. Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and we should not just give it away. Thank you for your time, and make that call.
Stephen C. Reinhard
South Lake Tahoe
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California’s broader economy is a bit sluggish, but certain sectors have been booming thanks to record low interest rates and many billions of stimulus dollars from Uncle Sam.