With the New Year came increased revenue to West Marin County in the form of a 4 percent increase in the transient occupancy tax, levied on visitors staying in short-term lodging properties.
The TOT rose from 10 percent to 14 percent, effective Jan. 1, as a result of the passage of Measure W in the November 2018 midterm election. The increase is expected to take a toll on area hoteliers, who largely opposed the measure.
“I expect less gross income from reduced conferences — 4 percent times 35 rooms for a few days adds up — and our long-term customers blaming us for government’s greed,” said Jeff Harriman, owner of Tomales Bay Resort and Marina in Inverness. “As the property will continue to need to be maintained and certain employees will deserve raises, the result will be less net income for the ownership and personal resentment to a community I have done business in for 35 years and lived in all my life.”
More than 76 percent of voters passed the measure, which authorized the tax increase in all of coastal West Marin, from Muir Beach to Dillon Beach. Harriman noted that the voters don’t pay the tax.
The revenue generated from the TOT increase — estimated at approximately $1.3 million for calendar year 2019 — will be split 50-50 between fire and emergency services, and community housing, said Sandra Kacharos, tax division chief for Marin County.
The TOT allocation for community housing includes, but is not limited to, housing for West Marin public safety employees, teachers and other members of the West Marin workforce; housing for families, housing for persons with disabilities and housing for seniors, according to the Measure W language. The Marin County Board of Supervisors will have final approval.
Doris Ferrando, owner of Ferrando’s Hideaway Cottages in Point Reyes Station, said she expects the 4 percent TOT hike will result in less business.
“We have two deluxe cottages and have a two-night minimum. Our prices are from $325 to $350 per night,” Ferrando said. “The 4 percent increase will (become) $98 TOT for a two-night stay in the cottage and $91 TOT in the bungalow, which I believe will bring more day-trippers than overnighters and in return will not deal with parking, bathroom facilities and garbage in downtown Point Reyes, which is a big problem.”
Ferrando said she would have supported a 2 percent TOT increase to combat these problems, which she noted are tourist-related.
This is the first TOT increase in Marin County since the original ordinance was adopted in 1966, Kacharos said. It’s also a first in that campgrounds in West Marin will now pay into the TOT, she said.
With regard to online platforms, Marin County has a compliance agreement with Airbnb and no others at this time, Kacharos said. Expedia is expected to update its site to reflect the TOT rate increase, but short-term rental operators are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the correct amount of tax is being collected and remitted to the tax collector.
Measure W TOT-reporting guidelines will be mailed this month to all known West Marin operators, Kacharos said.
In addition, a second TOT workshop will be held Feb. 21 at the Marin County Civic Center. More than 800 short-term rental operators were invited to the first workshop on Nov. 14, of which about 50 attended, she said.