West Marin deserves more facts before more tax

02/08/2018

Supervisor Rodoni is proposing a ballot measure to raise the Transient Occupancy Tax, the tax overnight visitors pay in West Marin, from its current 10 percent to 15 percent. The additional 5 percent would be earmarked for West Marin. Only West Marin overnight visitors would be paying the 15 percent. Visitors to the rest of Marin and surrounding counties would be paying much less: a competitive disadvantage for West Marin.

The West Marin Chamber of Commerce salutes Supervisor Rodoni’s attempt to bring monies that are contributed by West Marin back to West Marin, but not at the cost of our competitiveness. The chamber has long asked for an accounting of how and where the monies contributed to the general fund by West Marin are being spent. What we have been told is that the rest of the county subsidizes West Marin. Well, that’s no longer good enough, not if we are being asked to vote for a ballot measure that could negatively impact our tourism-based economy. 

Overnight stays are vital to our health. Studies have shown that for every $100 spent on lodging, overnight visitors spend an additional $69 on food, $48 on recreational activities and $59 on retail shopping. Supervisor Rodoni plans to earmark the additional 5 percent in revenue generated by this tax increase for West Marin housing and public safety. (Goals that the chamber has actively supported for many years.) The remaining 10 percent would continue to go into the general fund, and, as now, would be impossible to trace. West Marin contributed over $2.5 million in 2015-2016, which is approximately 78 percent of all TOT funds collected in unincorporated Marin. We don’t know where it was spent and on what. 

The West Marin Chamber of Commerce thinks it’s time that we get an accounting of how our current TOT monies are being spent. We need to know how effectively and efficiently these funds are used before we agree to raise taxes on overnight visitors, the visitors that contribute the most to our local economy. West Marin contributes the lion’s share of TOT in unincorporated Marin. Why don’t we get the lion’s share back?

 

Frank Borodic, an Olema resident, is president of the West Marin Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Inn at Roundstone Farm.