Setting aside some of proposed SJB tax for tourism could allay worries

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Before businesses in San Juan Bautista become too infuriated
with city officials putting a three-fourth cent sales tax on the
November ballot, they should circle the wagons and try to find a
compromise that will not only increase the town’s general fund, but
also draw more tourists into the area.
Before businesses in San Juan Bautista become too infuriated with city officials putting a three-fourth cent sales tax on the November ballot, they should circle the wagons and try to find a compromise that will not only increase the town’s general fund, but also draw more tourists into the area.

The tax coming before voters this fall has some local businesses worried that the increase will hurt local residents the most and drive business to other towns with lower sales taxes.

City Manager Larry Cain, however, said the increase will only bolster the city’s general fund and prepare them for lean budget times when, and if, they come. The budget problems, like those gripping the state, county and the city of Hollister, could be closer than anyone thinks in San Juan Bautista. The city manager reports everything is fine for the upcoming 2004-2005 budget. However, it’s possible things could take a turn for the worse if the economy continues its torpid pace and if the Governator, or the state, reneges on a promise to keep state hands off local dollars in the future.

The state of California raided local coffers this year to bail out the state budget while promising to pay the money back over three years and to never take local revenues again. Already some state legislators have voiced the opinion that they are uncomfortable with “locking in” the governor’s promise.

The increase would make San Juan’s sales tax an even 8 percent and bolster city revenues by approximately $120,000 annually.

It’s a relatively small increase that we think would probably do little to scare away the tourists drawn to the quaint, history-rich city of San Juan Bautista. But it’s also assured that no one will feel the tax bite more than locals when they frequent their favorite businesses.

In essence, what the city wants and, presumably, what the businesses want are directly related and there certainly is a middle ground. The city wants more revenue to stash away to insure there will be no service cuts if the budget well dries up. Businesses want more customers.

City officials should be prepared to spend part of the estimated $120,000 increase in revenue on a tourism campaign. It would serve a dual purpose – pleasing the local business sector by drawing more customers and generating more dollars for the rainy-day fund. Likewise, if the city did fall on lean times, the campaign could be scaled back until the storm passes.

As for the locals who will feel the tax bite, they get the ultimate say on the issue at the ballot box.

To respond to this editorial or comment on this issue, please send or bring letters to Editor, Hollister Free Lance, 350 Sixth St., Hollister, Calif. 95023 or fax to 637-4104 or e-mail to [email protected]

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