Updated: Jan 26, 2021
(GUERNEVILLE, CA), January 22, 2021 – Sonoma County business owners, parents, local workers, and nonprofits have banded together to form Save Sonoma Jobs, a committee to stop a potentially devastating tax hike, Measure B, for an industry that’s already suffered huge economic and job losses in recent years.
If passed on March 2, Measure B would add an additional 4 percent Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to the existing taxes charged on all forms of lodging in the area. It's simply unrealistic, and frankly irresponsible to rely on funding for such critical services from tourism in the midst of a pandemic, the coalition argues. Not only that, tourism experts say that the industry will not recover until at least 2024, so Measure B’s intended goal of funding essential services from it is neither a viable nor reliable source of revenue.
“It’s simple math,” says Joe Bartolomei, proprietor of the Farmhouse Inn and member of the Save Sonoma Jobs coalition. “You can’t tax revenue that simply doesn’t exist. We’ve lost 50 percent of our revenue and 30 percent of our workforce. There’s no revenue left to tax, and this additional increase would be the nail in the coffin of local tourism and hospitality jobs.”
“We need to look at alternative, creative funding options, such as charging visitors who use the emergency services (like they do in Colorado). This measure is an outdated, unoriginal way to raise money when the times and circumstances have changed dramatically. Sonoma County is smarter than Measure B,” adds local innkeeper Bryce Skolfield.
The committee also argues Measure B will fall far short of its financial goals being touted nor create steady funding for either the schools or emergency services. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins says the issue has been researched and that there is data to back up the argument for this additional tax, though no one has seen that report, despite repeated requests.
“Measure B would skyrocket Sonoma’s TOT rates to the highest in the state, as well as challenge tourism and other west county businesses in their economic recovery following the recent years’ fires, flooding, and current pandemic,” adds Bartolomei. “The timing of this measure could not be worse for our local economy, and research* indicates that the additional tax would actually slow down our path to recovery, costing us precious jobs in the area. There is no doubt that fire and education funding are needed, but Measure B is not the solution.”
The committee enlisted the help of Sonoma State University economics professor Dr. Robert Eyler, whose research into the issue shows that the yield from the measure will not be nearly as large as the proponents claim. Eyler’s research is available here from Economic Forensics and Analytics.
The Committee to Save Sonoma Jobs is seeking volunteers, donors, and supporters to help defeat Measure B. For more information please visit https://www.savesonomajobs.org/.
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*Research Report from Economic Forensics and Analytics