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Letter to the Editor: Measure B’s 2% Increase in Hotel Tourist Tax to Help Much-Needed Services

This November 8, Santa Barbara County voters will be asked to approve a modest 2% increase to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), raising it from 10% to 12%. The County’s TOT rate has not seen an increase since 1990.  TOT is the third largest source of discretionary revenue for the General Fund that helps pays for services and infrastructure like parks, roads, libraries, public safety and mental health services.

The increase would equalize the bed tax for short-term rental properties across the county as the TOT rate is already at 12% in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang, Carpinteria and Buellton. The County TOT is generated by occupants who pay a fee when staying at any lodging facility, such as a hotel/motel or vacation property rental, for 30 days or less. Measure B would only apply to facilities within the unincorporated areas of the County who are taxed 10%.

Since a substantial percentage of the unincorporated areas’ hotel or motel guests are out-of- county residents, visitors or tourists, the increased tax revenue generated would be paid by non-county residents.

Over the past several years, the County has identified the need to generate additional revenue to support the array of general government services mandated by law as well as capital needs expected by the public.

As an example, the County has witnessed an increase in demand for mental health hospitalizations inside and outside of the county, requiring more funding than ever before. We have aging infrastructure and significant deferred maintenance needs while state and federal funding for roads has been erratic or declining, requiring more local funding than in the past.

To equalize rates and potentially generate an additional $2.0 million in annual revenue, the County Supervisors approved an action to place Measure B on the November 8 ballot for the electorate’s approval.

To maintain services critical to the health, safety and well-being of our community, we the undersigned urge voters to support Measure B as a way to increase revenues without cutting desperately needed services.

Janet Wolf
Second District Santa Barbara County supervisor

Steve Lavagnino
Fifth District Santa Barbara County supervisor

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