J.J. Gasparotti in his Nov. 1 column reflects how the new and renovated hotels in Laguna can pay for visitors, and he suggests an income tax on hotels to cover increasing costs of our 6.2 million visitors annually.
The city is looking at expanding the hotel transit occupancy tax (TOT) from hotels to help cover non-reimbursed costs generated by tourists/visitors, and this certainly is worthwhile.
The problem is that 95 percent of visitors are daytrippers. The city currently is suffering from a $20 million deficit, which is taken from Laguna residents’ property tax, roughly $2,000 per parcel. So hotel/bed tax, while helpful, won’t solve the problem.
There are a number of ways to tax visitors that should be explored:
Expand the TOT to other hotel services such as catering, spas and add a city resort fee, after all, Laguna is a resort attraction, just like Disneyland, so why shouldn’t the city be compensated for services it provides? This requires voter approval.
Business tax/gross receipts tax on restaurants and bars to cover increased DUI enforcement, fire department service, and public works costs. Requires voter approval.
Increase parking fees and expand scope of metered parking to South Laguna where practical.
Charge visitors for trolley service. At $2 per passenger, this would generate another $1 million.
City gross receipts tax. Most of the money is spent by visitors. Requires voter approval.
Increase utility taxes on commercial property.
Increase local sales tax.
All of the above will to some degree be controversial and difficult to implement, but the city taking your property tax money is unjust and in the long term, not sustainable. Tourists are not “the icing on the cake” as commonly believed, but a long-term liability.
If you are unhappy with all this, tell your elected officials.
George Orff, Laguna Beach