Lompoc City Council Meeting 5-3-2022
Lompoc City Council members opened the door to increasing transient occupancy tax when they directed city staff May 3 to begin preparing a ballot initiative that would place more funding in public safety department coffers.
With Councilwoman Gilda Cordova recusing herself due to financial interests in hotel and related business in Lompoc, the remaining council members voted 4-0 to place an initiative on the November ballot. If approved by two-thirds majority, the city’s transient occupancy tax, also known as a bed tax, charged to hotel visitors staying 30 days or less would increase from 10% to 11%.
When hotels run credit cards, they face bank fees for the service. The initiative also would include a 2% credit recovery fee to help hoteliers cover the cost incurred when collecting the tax via credit card — the preferred method of payments for an overwhelming majority of hotel guests.
As requested by the hoteliers, the funds collected by the city as a result of the increase would be earmarked for public safety, with 65% designated for the police department and 35% to the fire department.
The project has been in the works for about a year, according to City Attorney Jeff Malawy.
Currently, guests visiting Lompoc guest lodging facilities pay 10% TOT, plus a 3% tourism improvement district tax. The combined 13% tax is in line with other Santa Barbara County municipalities for the most part, Malawy reported.
The city’s income from this year’s TOT is expected to hit $2.3 million, so a 1% increase would bring in an additional $230,000. Of that, $50,600 would be returned to hotels to cover the credit card service fee.
“In this day and age with the environment we’ve all gone through, I think a specific tax would actually have a really good chance of passing, especially for a designated focus such as public safety or police and fire,” Councilman Victor Vega said .
Indeed several of the city’s hoteliers stood before the council Monday in support of the initiative including: Paul Patel of Quality Inn & Executive Suites, Lompoc Valley Inn & Suites and board member of Visit Lompoc LLC (Explore Lompoc); Sylvia King; Suraj Patel of Hilton Garden Inn; and Sylvia Lizarde, general manager at Hilton Garden Inn.
Mayor Pro Tem Jeremy Ball pointed out that the increase in revenues, while helpful, would not fund the addition of even one full-time police officer nor one part-time firefighter.
“It’s a small incremental improvement and absolutely should be added on top of the budget we already give to public safety,” Ball said.
The City Council also approved the expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act funds earmarked for parks and recreation to include: resurfacing and renovation of Ryon Park tennis courts; converting two asphalt tennis courts at Ryon Park to eight concreted, permanent pickleball courts; fund development of parks and recreation facilities master plan; and renovating the Johns-Manville Park’s ball field restrooms and concession stand.
The council also approved Community Development Program Manager Chanel Ovalle’s recommendation to allocate the city’s US Housing and Urban Development Community Development block grant funding as follows: $169,575 toward salary and unfunded accrued liability supplies for program administration; $784,199 for park improvements; and, $50,000 for Catholic Charities’ mobile and single-family housing emergency repair program. In addition, staff recommended approval of $15,000 each to: Catholic Charities; Lompoc Recreation community programs; Good Samaritan Shelter; North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center; Transitions Mental Health Association; and $15,088 each to United Boys & Girls Club and YMCA of Lompoc.
On a consent agenda blanket vote, the council unanimously:
— Adopted a resolution declaring the intent to levy the annual park and pool assessments for fiscal year 2022-23, preliminarily approved an engineer’s report, provided notice of public hearing for the park maintenance and city pools assessment district;
— Increased the city fleet fuel budget $396,558 for the remainder of fiscal year 2021-22 and $753,000 for fiscal year 2022-23 to account for rising fuel costs; other
— Adopted a resolution to secure second payment of COVID-19 state and local fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act Program.
The council also met in closed session to discuss with staff labor negotiations with Lompoc Police Officers Association and IBEW Local #1245.