The measure is needed to maintain the 10 percent bed tax rate that applies to hotels within the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. It changed to 10 percent in 1990, and a majority yes vote is needed to keep it from reverting to 8 percent.
The bed tax, or transient occupancy tax, is collected by hoteliers and given to the county treasurer’s office. It’s the third-largest discretionary tax source after property and sales tax for the county, with $7.2 million, $6.4 million and $5.8 million the last three years, respectively, and a projected $6 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
According to the county counsel analysis, the state can’t raid the funds or even borrow them, so the revenues stay local. The county would lose about $1.2 million if the ballot measure fails to pass.
“A yes vote makes no change in the 20-year-old tax rate but sustains revenue flow to help pay for vital local services,” Board of Supervisors chairwoman and Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf wrote in the argument for Measure K.
The Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association supports the measure and has educational materials in the works for voters, said Tom Patton, GSBLRA board member and general manager of the Ramada Limited on Calle Real.
There could be more to lose in terms of social services from losing $1.2 million than what would be gained by going down to 8 percent, he said.
“My personal feeling is that I have no problem with it staying at 10 percent,” Patton said.
The organization aims to educate people that it’s an existing tax, he said, since many voters tend to vote no when a tax is involved.
The countywide and statewide primary election is June 8.