As I drive through Sonoma Valley, I am awestruck by the incredible beauty that flanks the sides of Hwy 12 through Kenwood and Glen Ellen before slowing down to pass through the Springs. It is wonderful to see the hills a vibrant green much earlier this year, providing the perfect setting for the yellows, oranges, and purples of the vineyards. Adding to the gorgeous views, this is the first time we have been able to navigate winter with sidewalks and bike lanes in the Springs, a perfect opportunity to shop local to support our businesses.
Indeed, we are very fortunate to live in this stunning, interesting and diverse place. I hope that each of you has a wonderful holiday and that we all take the time to appreciate what is going well in our lives and our community.
Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)
The Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is revenue generated from tourism dollars, specifically from overnight occupancy. Thanks to you, the voters, the passage of Measure L last month increased the TOT from 9 to 12 percent countywide — the first increase since 1992. (The city of Sonoma rate is also 12 percent.) Sonoma County’s TOT is now at the same rate as Napa County, yet still below the 14 percent rate in San Francisco. The 3 percent increase is expected to generate approximately $5 million in additional revenue in FY2017-18.
The new board will have an opportunity in January to discussion the disposition of the TOT revenue. I am urging a change in the current policy mandating 75 percent of the funds be spent on the county’s advertising and promotion program. Instead, I want to dedicate more of the funds to improve our roads, increase funding for our public safety organizations, and set aside more TOT for workforce housing.
It is not enough to maintain the roads that serve agriculture and tourism while leaving our residents behind. Our neighborhood roads are in deplorable condition and we cannot afford to continue to pothole over the problems. TOT is one revenue stream that can help — in addition to the $10.5 million the BOS sets aside from the General Fund each year, as well as additional funding for the worst roads.
During this fiscal year, my colleagues and I set aside $1 million of TOT revenue for affordable housing. I would like to add to the housing fund and explore partnerships with the private sector employers to create a housing trust to build and operate various types of workforce housing. We have a responsibility to those who provide the labor for our booming economy to address the housing crisis in collaborative, effective and innovative ways.
I am also happy to announce the county has reached an agreement with AirBnB to enforce and administrate the collection of taxes on short-term rentals. The Board approved the agreement in November. This is but one measure we have taken to address issues regarding the explosion of short-term rentals in the county and especially, Sonoma Valley.
Still, a percentage of the funding will continue to be dedicated to Advertising and Promotions. There are several category areas, from visitors centers to parks to public safety to workforce development and scholarships to documentaries to preservation of history. The application window for these funds is narrow and fast approaching. Please see information below.
We also have Category E Funds which sets aside a proportional amount of TOT funds for each Supervisor to distribute small grants to local nonprofits to underwrite the cost of promoting events. Our district receives the second highest grant fund because we generate the second highest amount of TOT in the county.
This year, the amount is approximately $41,000 and nonprofit organizations can apply year round for Category E. Past recipients include the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, Pet’s Lifeline, 4th of July Parade and Fireworks, ArtEscape, Sonoma Teen Services, Nuestra Voz’s Mexican Independence Day and many more. Please contact my office at 707.565.2241 for more information.
For the rest of the grants, please note the Fiscal Year 2017-18 Advertising and Promotions Grant applications will open on January 2, 2017 and are due by February 17, 2017.
The Advertising Program will hold an educational workshop to review eligibility requirements, the application process, policy requirements, and to answer questions you may have on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at p.m. in the CAO Community and Government Affairs Conference Room – 113A, 575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa 95403. Attendance is not required but if this is your first time applying for an Advertising Program grant you are strongly encouraged to attend. For more information or to attend please contact [email protected]
Prior to the educational workshop, please review the Advertising Program Policy to determine if your organization and/or events are eligible for an Advertising grant.
Sonoma Valley Connect: law enforcement
I am pleased to announce the next Sonoma Valley Connect informational forum focusing on law enforcement in Sonoma Valley on December 8, 7-8:30p.m. at El Verano Elementary School, 18606 Riverside Drive, in Sonoma. Spanish translation will be provided along with snacks and beverages. Please see page X for more.
Finally, thank you for the opportunity to begin my second term as your supervisor in January 2017. I am looking forward to many more years of working together, every day, to make a positive difference. Happy Holidays!