The El Dorado County Economic Development Advisory Committee (CEDAC) made a return visit to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 25, asking for ten percent of the hotel tax (Transient Occupancy Tax) collected by the county.
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With a cadre of supporters from all over the county, they asked the board for $200,000 of the approximate $2 million the county collects each year in hotel taxes to use as seed money to attract grants. They cited examples from other counties that have used hotel tax revenue to secure matching grants from state, federal, county and local sources to provide jobs and pay for public improvement projects such as bike trails, parks, and museums. Placer County was used as one example of a municipality that spent $30 million in hotel tax funds over 15 years to generate a total of $130 million.
A list of speakers from across the county spoke in favor of the proposal with El Dorado Hills attorney Jim Brunello taking the lead.
Brunello noted that in the past the county had not received the same level of grant funding as other counties and cited examples of how other jurisdictions had used hotel tax money to attract grants that were used to pay for local amenities and infrastructure.
He also proposed creating what he called a council of communities that would be made up of different groups including residential communities such as Camino and Cameron Park along with groups devoted to other issues such as historical preservation, agriculture, or fire protection. He said this would allow everyone a chance to weigh in on decisions.
Brunello referenced work CEDAC members have already advocated for having to do with regulatory reform and economic development such as the targeted General Plan Amendment, comprehensive zoning ordinance update, and countywide community design standards and guidelines. He said the next step was further work on community design, zoning amendments, the formation of special districts, and historical preservation.
Other speakers reinforced his message as they discussed the specific needs of their communities. Robert Smart Jr. of Diamond Springs said his community is targeted for more residential development but there are no parks. Betty January of El Dorado Hills wanted grants to help preserve the many historical sites in the county. Jeanne Harper said she wanted to bring “business to our businesses” and to beautify the community of Pollock Pines.
However Michael Ranalli was a little more to the point, saying “we’re here to get the money.”
To move the process along, Brunello asked the board to begin the process to develop a central web portal for sharing information; to develop a future promotions RFP (request for proposal) process to reflect funding of year-round programs (such as arts and culture, film, jobs, etc.) versus projects (events, parades, festivals). Last he asked that they be allowed to come back on March 25 and give a report to the board on a process for Community Organization and Economic Development program funding.
Board Chairman Ron Briggs noted that $200,000 was a lot of money and the board had worked hard over the past six months to bring the budget into balance. Saying he was grateful for how much volunteers had already done with so little, he asked for more information on how the $200,000 would be used.
Board member Ron Mikulaco also wanted to know who would decide how the money would be spent and how to create a policy countywide that would make everyone happy given the diversity of communities and interest groups.
After additional discussion, a motion was made by Supervisor Brian Veerkamp to direct staff to bring the matter back on March 25 with language to enable the board to take action.
The board also received a mid-year update on the budget from Chief Budget Officer Laura Schwartz. Schwartz reported that based on current data, General Fund revenues are expected to exceed expenses by a little under $1.1 million. The county also maintains a $9 million reserve for economic uncertainties.
The county is still projecting shortfalls over the next five years including a $5.3 million shortfall in 2013-14; an $8.2 million shortfall in 2014-15; an $8.7 million in 2015-16; a $9.2 million in 2016-17; and an $8.8 million shortfall in 2017-18.
Despite that information, Auditor-Controller Joe Harn said El Dorado County was in better shape than many others.
Chief Probation Officer, Greg Sly also gave an update on the public safety realignment program. Under the program, non-violent felons are incarcerated in county jails to relieve over-crowding in state prisons. The state pays counties for incarcerating them. Sly proposed contracting with probation to use part of their facility in case the jail ever reaches capacity. He said he would return with a more specific proposal in July.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.