Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
Get the facts before you vote.
Brought to you by
MapLight
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Tuesday March 2, 2021 — Special Election
Invest in unbiased information

With your support, we can reach and inform more voters.

Donate now to spread the word.

Special District

West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area
Measure B Ordinance - 2/3 Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results

Failing

10,454 votes yes (62.4%)

6,305 votes no (37.6%)

To address tourism impacts on West County communities and paid only by guests, shall the measure be adopted to add an additional 4% transient occupancy tax in West County for hotels and short-term rentals, to support sustainable paramedic emergency medical and rescue services provided by local fire agencies, and to support West County schools and education, raising approximately $2.7 million annually, with all funds exclusively used for West County, effective until amended/repealed?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information

YES vote means

A “yes” vote on Measure B will authorize the County to create the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area and impose the special transient occupancy tax as described above [see the County Counsel's Impartial Analysys], and the new tax would take effect on July 1, 2021.

NO vote means

A “no” vote will not authorize the County to create the special tax.

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Source: Office of the County Counsel, Sonoma County

County Counsel’s Impartial Analysis of Measure B

Measure B asks voters whether the County should enact a new special transient occupancy tax to address tourism in the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area. The proposed tax would be assessed on persons occupying lodging for a period of thirty consecutive days or less. The tax applies to various types of lodging, including vacation rentals, hotels, motels, inns, and other lodging. The tax would be collected by the lodging operator and remitted to the Sonoma County Tax Collector in the same manner as the existing countywide transient occupancy tax.

California law authorizes the County, upon a 2/3 vote of the electorate, to levy a special tax. Additionally, California Revenue and Taxation Code authorizes the County to levy a tax on guests for the privilege of occupying temporary lodging located in the unincorporated area of the County. Measure B would impose a special transient occupancy tax of four percent (4%) of the rate charged for lodging in the unincorporated area of Sonoma County within the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area. The proposed special tax would be in addition to the 12% general transient occupancy tax applicable to the entire unincorporated area in the County of Sonoma for such lodgings.

The proposed tax would apply to visitors at hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and other lodgings, as defined in Measure B, for the privilege of occupying a room or rooms in the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area. Measure B defines the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area as the unincorporated area of west Sonoma County encompassed within the combined area of the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District and the West Sonoma County Unified High School District.

The purpose of the special tax is to address visitor impacts on communities within the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area by enhancing paramedic emergency medical and rescue services and encouraging consolidation of local fire agencies and by providing funding to support and sustain educational facilities and programs for rural students as regional unification efforts move forward. The proceeds of the tax are estimated to be approximately $2,700,000 annually, and all funds must be used exclusively for the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area.

One-half of the tax proceeds shall be allocated to support public paramedic emergency medical and rescue services and the consolidation of local fire agencies in the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area. The remaining half of the revenues shall be allocated to support and sustain educational facilities and programs for rural students as regional unification efforts move forward, as more fully set forth in Measure B. Additionally, the Board of Supervisors will establish and Education Advisory Committee to provide recommendations to the County on how the educational portion of the West County Transient Occupancy Tax should be allocated.

Measure B establishing the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area and imposing the special tax will become effective only if approved by two-thirds of those voting on the measure.

A “yes” vote on Measure B will authorize the County to create the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area and impose the special transient occupancy tax as described above, and the new tax would take effect on July 1, 2021.

A “no” vote will not authorize the County to create the special tax.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors placed Measure B on the ballot for voter approval. The full text of Measure B follows this analysis.

s/ Robert H. Pittman
County Counsel

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR

It’s time for tourists to pay their fair share.

We appreciate and value the economic benefits of tourism. However, the influx of tourists has created a substantial burden on first responders. Currently, local taxpayers subsidize fire and rescue services, but tourists continue to monopolize our first responders’ time. The community now faces a risky situation where local residents may not have access to critical ambulance and rescue services when needed.

Vacation rentals have also contributed to our housing crisis, which has impacted the ability of families to live in West County. This has led to the loss of critical educational programs and the potential closure of schools like El Molino High School, creating hardships for students and families in this vast high school district of 325 square miles.

As community leaders who have searched for years for solutions, we believe Measure B is the best way to address both longstanding concerns and current emergencies. Measure B will raise approximately $2.7 million annually, exclusively for use in West County to support sustainable paramedic emergency medical and rescue services, and West County education needs. Raising funds from visitors fairly benefits both tourists and the local community.

Measure B ensures local paramedic ambulance services will continue to be able serve locals as well as visitors, and that no paramedic positions will be cut. It could stop the closure of a high school and maintain shop, culinary, technology and other career education programs, as well as music, arts, drama and electives essential for our student’s education. West County K-12 schools would be eligible for the funds dedicated to education.

Measure B supports thoughtful, planned unification of small government districts to save taxpayers money through increased efficiency. Voting yes not only stops our immediate crises but supports good governance and long term sustainability. Vote Yes on Measure B!

s/ Lynda Hopkins - Fifth Distict Supervisor              s/ Herman J. Hernandez - Real Estate Broker

s/ Una J. M. Glass - City of Sebastopol Mayor          s/ Kellie Noe - West County High School Trustee

BODEGA BAY PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS s/ Justin Fox, Chapter President 

Arguments AGAINST

Had the Board of Supervisors left Measure B in its original form, we likely would not have opposed it. But a rushed last minute change by the Board gives us reason for pause.

As originally drafted, Measure B, a tax on overnight lodging, would have raised money to help beleaguered west county fire and paramedic services. Since visitors account for a disproportionate amount of emergency service calls, it makes sense that they should help pay for those services.

But a month before the ballot filing deadline, the equally beleaguered West Sonoma County High School District proposed for consideration the consolidation of El Molino and Analy High Schools to help reduce some if its expenses. With the deadline bearing down and El Molino supporters rapidly organizing to oppose consolidation, the Board of Supervisors in a split and hasty decision added the high school district to the measure as a 50% beneficiary.

The high school district has faced declining enrollment issues for years as housing prices drive young families from the area. Declining enrollment in turn means declining revenue as state funding is largely determined by enrollment levels. The district now finds itself saddled with the expense of maintaining more facilities than it needs. Facing an annual deficit of nearly $2 million dollars, consolidating some of its underused facilities was an appropriate topic for discussion.

In its current form, Measure B diverts half of its proceeds away from fire and paramedic services while funneling them instead to the high school district. The declining enrollment problem doesn’t go away and the consolidation decision is kicked down the road a couple years. Meanwhile, millions of tax dollars will be wasted propping up the struggling school district.

It’s your money. We recommend a No vote on Measure B.

SONOMA COUNTY TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION

s/ Dan Drummond, Executive Director 

Replies to Arguments FOR

We agree.

Tourists should pay their fair share of fire and emergency services.

Unfortunately, this measure uses half of its money to prop up the struggling West Sonoma County High School District. In addition to this Measure B, the District also wants you to approve Measure A, a separate parcel tax the proceeds of which all go to the District.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You just approved another parcel tax last year in March, 2020 and a $91 million bond measure in June, 2018. In all, the District wants you to approve four separate tax and bond measures to keep it afloat.

The District has for years seen its enrollment figures drop as young families are squeezed out by Sonoma County’s high housing costs. That reduction in enrollment translates to a corresponding reduction in funding from the state.

The problem is the District now has more facilities than it needs given the reduced enrollment figures. Rather than streamlining its operations and eliminating surplus facilities, the District wants you to pay to maintain these no longer needed assets.

You’ve been very generous approving earlier tax and bond measures. It’s time for the District to sharpen its pencil and cut its expenses. You’ve done your part. It’s time for them to do theirs.

Vote No on Measures A and B.

SONOMA COUNTY TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION

s/ Dan Drummond, Executive Directo

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Taxing tourists fairly enables our community to offset the cost strains placed on our paramedic and firefighter first responders, who are underfunded, understaffed, and overworked as a direct result of the burden from visitors to West Sonoma County. Measure B’s tourist taxation model also offsets the loss of housing to vacation rentals by providing for education for all, from birth to seniors, over a sustained period of time.

Education funding will likely be allocated to West Sonoma County Union High School District in the short term while a district unification study is being completed, to prevent the premature closure of El Molino High School. Measure B funds are eligible for broader educational priorities including pre-K, all West County k-12 schools, as well as to adult learners and career technical programs, overseen by a community oversight panel created in Measure B.

Fire and emergency services funding will prevent the loss of paramedics and firefighters in West Sonoma County. Currently, 80% of calls for help in the coastal area are for tourists, placing a burden so big it is breaking the system.

The model of taxing tourists to support community needs that are impacted by visitors was adopted by West Marin County in 2018. We are simply following that successful model, and are working to take care of our own here in West Sonoma County, as we have done for decades.

Tourists must pay their fair share- a yes vote on Measure B achieves that goal while helping to solve fire and emergency service response and educating our residents- a win-win. Vote Yes on Measure B.

s/ Myriah Volk - Sebastopol Union School Trustee             s/ Gillian Hayes - Parent, Vacation rental owner

s/ Doug Wood - Small Business Owner                            s/ Dan G. Northern -  Retired Fire Chief

s/ Debbie Ramirez - Analy High School Parent 

More information

Videos (1)

A measures forum discussion of the pros and cons of Measure A (West Sonoma County Union High School District) and Measure B (Proposed West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area).
Use tabs to select your choice. Use return to create a choice. You can access your choices by navigating to 'My Choices'.

Please share this site to help others research their voting choices.

PUBLISHING: SERVER:QA