Voters in Calaveras County will get to have their say in November on whether to increase the local hotel tax from 6 percent to 12 percent.

The county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve putting a special election to voters Nov. 6 with a yes-or-no question about the county’s current Transient Occupancy Tax.

Supervisors voting in favor were Gary Tofanelli, District 1, Jack Garamendi, District 2, Dennis Mills, District 4, and Clyde Clapp, District 5. Mike Oliveira, the District 3 supervisor, voted against. The measure required and received 4-out-of-5 approval, said Diane Severud, clerk of the board.

County staff estimate raising the current visitors tax from 6 percent to 12 percent will generate an additional $600,000 annually for county unrestricted general revenue.

“We have the proposed language ready,” Kathy Gallino, the county economic development director, said Wednesday. “We gave the language to Rebecca Turner to review back in June, and she has reviewed the language. At this point it's up to elections.”

Each November ballot will include analysis of the measure, an argument for raising the visitors tax, and an argument against raising the visitors tax. Anyone is free to submit an argument for or against, and the deadline for doing so is July 31.

“If more than one argument for or more than one argument against any county measure is submitted to the Registrar of Voters within the time prescribed,” county staff said in a report, “the Registrar of Voters shall select one of the arguments in favor and one of the arguments against the measure for printing and distribution to the voters.”

The tax increase measure will also be reviewed by county counsel. County counsel staff will be asked to prepare an impartial analysis of the measure, showing its effect on existing law and operation of the measure. County auditor staff may also be asked to review the measure.

The deadline for submitting impartial analyses and a fiscal impact statement is Aug. 10.

Adding a countywide measure to the Nov. 6 statewide primary election ballot will cost the county elections department about $8,000, county staff said. That does not include money the county has already spent on researching the visitors tax increase.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in April to spend $23,500 on a consultant to do polling, outreach and education in advance of putting a ballot measure to voters in November.

In June, Los Angeles-based consultant Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, Inc., also known as FM3 Research, presented results of a public opinion survey that showed support for raising the visitors tax exceeds 60 percent in Calaveras County.

Randomly sampled registered voters, 1,040 of them, were surveyed June 6 through 11.

More than half of those surveyed said they are concerned the county is on the wrong track, according to FM3 Research. Voters were not asked why they think the county is on the wrong track.

Al Segalla with the Calaveras County Taxpayers Association said in June he believed the presentation by FM3 Research was biased and designed to promote increasing the tax. Segalla said increasing the visitors tax is a mistake.

“Leaving it at 6 percent would provide the county with the opportunity to advertise ‘Come to Calaveras County, We Tax You Less.’ Right now we’re lower than Amador and Tuolumne counties,” Segalla said.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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