Council 2019

Sebastopol leaders will keep revenue generated from the increased bed tax flexible going into the new year.

What to do with the anticipated $112,000 was a debated topic during Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, and there was no shortage of ideas about where to use the funds.

In November, voters approved Measure R which increased the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) from 10 to 12 percent. A TOT is charged to visitors who stay overnight in a hotel room, based on a percentage of the cost of the room per night.

Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter brought the agenda item to the meeting and suggested the money be designated for two dire needs of the city: affordable housing and the city’s employee pension plan, California’s Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS).

A study from the California League of Cities shows CalPERS is drastically underfunded.

“As of January 2018, CalPERS had only 68 percent of the funds required to pay estimated retirement benefits — in other words, only 68 cents for every dollar needed to fund retiree pension commitments,” according to the study. 

“Rising pension costs will require cities over the next seven years to nearly double the percentage of their general fund dollars they pay to CalPERS.”

Councilmember Michael Carnacchi argued that while both affordable housing and CalPERS savings are priorities, the information published in favor of Measure R did not mention affordable housing or paying for pensions.

Carnacchi read directly from the published argument for the measure stating, “the TOT Sebastopol collects ensures that visitors pay for the added demand that they cause on city services such as roads, water, sewer, police and fire.”

Mayor Neysa Hinton said she felt earmarking the money to any specific cause at this point would be the wrong move. “This additional money needs to be flexible,” she said.

For now, the TOT money will stay in the general fund with no designation.

Other highlights of the meeting

Cary Bush and Ted Luthin will keep their seats on the design review board, and Gregory Beale will serve as an alternate. Zach Douch was re-appointed to serve on the planning commission, while one seat is left to be filled.

The city approved the purchase of a gas-powered dump truck. Staff brought the item to the council last year, to request a diesel truck, but Hinton pushed back, encouraging the staff to look for a cheaper alternative.

The decision proved to be a success, as the gas-powered truck is more than $14,000 lower than the original amount. No electric-powered vehicles of this caliber are currently available.

(3) comments

Beef

2. No matter what now, "affordable housing" is the go-to accepted destination for any tax dollar without a political home. Unfortunately, experience in the eastern cities of America instructs us that affordable housing is a myth, and is not sustainable by the tax base if the region is to be served adequately. Instead, we end up with housing projects that don't fulfill many of the goals that local activists feel are important to solving the problem of homelessness. Sebastopol should build a transitional housing center with the money, and focus on improving the local economy to foster job growth so homeless and others have a path to become part of working society. That is a sustainable idea that is working in other cities in the eastern US.

Beef

1. Sebastopol raised the TOT without a specific purpose for the funds - raising the tax simply to increase the revenue at their disposal. This is Progressivism at its worst, and a very slippery slope. After all, if they can do it with TOT they can do elsewhere. The local economies already struggle with epic tax burdens, and this group of "leaders" can't see the forest for the trees. Or, maybe it is just too inconvenient to be responsible for the future consequence of decisions made today.

rossmen

Sarah can diss Mike all she wants, but he is right on this and so many other points. The new tot tax is not to revitalize building up downtown with more waste of money studies.

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