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Transient Tax Proposal Falls Short Of Ballot
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A second bid to put a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increase before the voters failed at the Nov. 22 Riverbank City Council meeting when Councilmember Jesse James White opposed a resolution that required all three current council members to approve it.

The proposal to increase the city's tax rate for visitors staying at a local hotel or motel from its current 4 percent to 9 percent was defeated at the Nov. 2 election when it received only 40 percent of the vote.

Deputy City Clerk Annabelle Aguilar had requested the proposal be put back on the ballot of the March 8 special election that was called to replace former Councilmember Danny Fielder.

"The people already have spoken," said White in voting against the proposal. "For every $1 we bring in, we spend $1.50 ... until this Council gets its spending under control ..." he vowed he would oppose what he viewed as a further tax on the citizens.

The turnout for a special election would be less, he added. He would rather see the proposal placed on a general election ballot that would give a fairer indication of the citizens' wishes.

While agreeing the measure would stand a better chance in a general election, Mayor Virginia Madueno said it was not well advertised for the November ballot - she had people querying her about it right up to the day of the election - and it would be foolish not to try again soon.

Madueno also noted it proposed a tax increase on visitors, not on residents.

White countered that the cheaper the TOT, the cheaper it would be for someone to visit and stay in town and he wanted to make it easier for people to visit.

Noting most California cities have a TOT rate of five to 10 percent, Economic Development Director Tim Ogden said some cities return a portion of the TOT to the hotel developer and this is a definite incentive to developers to build a hotel or motel in town.

Riverbank currently has no motel or hotel but officials said they are negotiating and close to getting one. There is a Riverbank Hotel located on Third Street but it is more of a boarding house than hotel. Most of its guests stay longer than 30 days and thus are exempt from paying the TOT tax.

Although new council members will take office on Dec. 13 - Dave White and Sandra Benitez are retiring - they will come too late to revisit the issue. The Nov. 22 meeting was the last chance to get a TOT raise on the March 8 ballot, said Ogden.