Letters to the Editor: Oct. 10, 2008

Yes on H

This November, Del Mar residents will vote on Proposition H - a measure that authorizes the City to raise the hotel room tax rate (TOT) up to 13 percent. Vote "Yes" on Proposition H. Here's why.

Del Mar, a city of just over 4,500 residents, annually receives more than two million visitors to its fine attractions. These visitors regularly use and require city services, including fire and emergency medical, traffic and law enforcement, and lifeguards to name a few. All of these services are provided by the city from its general fund revenues.

How can Del Mar's 4,500 residents and 1,800 property owners support the cost of these services to more than two million visitors? It is because the city relies on several sources of revenue to support its general fund programs.

The largest single revenue category is city property taxes - paid mainly by residents. Property taxes contribute nearly one-third of all general fund revenues.

The TOT is the next largest revenue category - paid mainly by visitors. The TOT contributes just over 16 percent of all general fund revenue. TOT and sales tax revenues combined about equal the property tax revenues.

Until recently, TOT alone contributed more than 20 percent of general fund revenue. But TOT revenues have not kept pace with the rising cost of general fund services. It's time to adjust the TOT rates.

Because visitors, not residents, pay the TOT voter approval of a TOT rate increase normally would be a "no brainer." But in this election strident opposition to Proposition H has arisen in the form of a ballot argument signed by a small group of former council members. Why would this group oppose increasing the TOT rate?

Their ballot argument accuses the City Council of "sleight of hand" and of not telling the "whole story" to the public. These charges stemmed from a City Council action last August that loosely related the TOT rate to a possible special assessment on hotel rooms, part of a tourism marketing district or TMD suggested by hotel owners last June.

The council wanted everyone to be aware of the hotel owners' suggested TMD even though the owners haven't decided whether to go forward with it. The council's action clearly was premature. But the opponents were angered by the council's action and they hastened to file their ballot argument in opposition.

The council members asserted the opponents were confused by the TMD proposal and misinterpreted the Council's intentions. Such things do happen. To show their good faith, the council took the unusual step of rescinding the action they had not yet finally approved.

The opponents have claimed a victory in letters to editors and have withdrawn their opposition to Proposition H. Unfortunately; their opposition argument still appears in the voter information materials.

Don't be confused by the argument opposing Proposition H. Vote "Yes" to ensure that visitors will continue paying a fair share of the cost of essential city services.

Wayne Dernitz

Del Mar

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