By Bud Emerson
Resident, Del Mar
The Del Mar City Council is making a decision to outsource a taxing and spending function of government beyond the reach of voters. This is not good government.
The council is set to approve a Tourist Business Improvement District (TBID) proposed by six hotels. The TBID proposal would allow the hotels to tax visitors 1 percent of their room rate, raising approximately $130,000. A TBID board would then make decisions about how to allocate those funds, in this case mostly for advertising and a subsidy for the Del Mar Village Association.
Although a number of other cities have approved this TBID strategy, there is very little documented proof of measured results in any city. Expert testimony at the council meeting suggested that this modest amount of money would be insufficient to amount an effective campaign to "brand" Del Mar.
Another concern is how much tax visitors could be taxed to stay in a Del Mar hotel. In 2009 Del Del Mar voters approved council authority to increase the hotel tax on visitors to 13 percent. To date, the council has increased that tax only to 11.5 percent. Should the council decide to implement the full voter-approved 13 percent, and then allow the hotels to add another 1 percent on top of that, Del Mar's tax would be higher than most other cities. Voters were led to believe that the TOT vote was not related to the TBID tax, but in reality they have the same effect on visitors.
We now will have a situation where some visitor taxes will be handled by an elected body and some taxes will be collected and spent by a body not accountable to the voters. We will be outsourcing part of our governmental decision making to an appointed hotel board.
Del Mar already knows how difficult it is to deal with an appointed board which has power to affect our lives but has no accountability to voters. Watch the Del Mar Fair board in action if you need proof. Now our council is creating another appointed board beyond the reach of voters.
Ironically, this decision comes on the heels of a failed council effort to place a tax on non-hotel short-term rentals. The council's reasoning was that we need the revenue to close an important budget gap. But now the council wants to give visitor tax money to the hotels to spend — go figure.
The bottom line is we lose the money, the power, the accountability and get no results. Are we going to sit still for this kind of wrong-headed decision making? The final council vote will be in September. Wake up Del Mar.