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ConVis: Long-Term Effects of TOT Hike Ignored

ConVis: Long-Term Effects of TOT Hike Ignored

BY CONNIE LEWIS

While the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau endorsed the March ballot measure Proposition C, which would have earmarked additional funding for tourism marketing had it passed, the bureau has been mum on a new hotel-room tax increase proposed on November’s ballot.

ConVis Chief Executive Officer Reint Reinders fears a plan to raise the tax from 10.5 percent to 13 percent without providing more funding for tourism marketing, either by earmarking or an ordinance, could result in San Diego losing some of its appeal as one of the most popular vacation spots in the country.

“A lot is at stake and the council, the city manager and the tourism industry need to be looking ahead, not just at the next year, but at the tremendous impact raising the tax will have in the next five, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years,” Reinders said. “A 2.5 percent increase in the TOT (transient occupancy tax) over the next 30 years could raise over $1 billion, easily.

“And I find it unfortunate that there’s no discussion about the long-term effect of that. We always tend to react to what’s right in front of us in terms of the problems, and I’d like to think that we could be more visionary and think for the future.”

While the cash-strapped council is looking at hotel guests to fill the void in funding allocations for equipment purchases and repairs for fire and police departments, Reinders thinks a better, long-range solution should be sought, such as imposing a fee on residential garbage collection.

He also thinks the council should plan on using some of the increased revenue from the proposed hotel-room tax increase to complete the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, the expansion of the San Diego Zoo, development of the North Embarcadero and to improve the quality of area beaches.

“Everybody always wants the other guy to pay,” said City Councilwoman Donna Frye, referring to Reinders’ suggestion of a trash pickup fee.

Frye was one of the six council members who backed putting the hotel-room tax hike initiative on the ballot , two and Mayor Dick Murphy were opposed. She agreed with Reinders, however, that long-range projects that would draw more tourists should be addressed, but at a later date, in “general document plan amendments.”

“We can do both,” Frye said, referring to funding public safety needs and upgrading the quality of public attractions. Meanwhile, the City Council has to deal with other “high priority” issues such as improving its bond rating and shoring up the deficiency in its pension fund.

“We have to deal with the priorities first, and there’s only so much time and so much money,” Frye said.

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