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No advisory for spending of TOT

Mayor Chris Vierra's call for a citizen's advisory panel to make recommendations on where the estimated $100,000 annually from the newly increased hotel tax should be spent gained no traction on Monday.

During the Ceres City Council meeting, Vierra said he believes many citizens who voted to increase the Transient and Occupancy Tax (TOT) from five percent to 10 percent in November 2015 felt that the revenue would not be supporting police and fire.

Councilman Bret Durossette said that the TOT is general fund money which can be spent where the council finds need. He said because the city needs to make up for general fund shortages, the TOT can go for needs like police and fire salaries.

"My only concern with that is that's not what was portrayed to the voters when the TOT tax was sent to them," said Vierra. "It was ‘We're going to help fund other marketing business development to promote the city and other things' ... not for salaries."

City Manager Toby Wells noted that the ballot measure contained no promises where the money would go. If the city had designated a specific area to use the money, the city would have needed a two-thirds majority.

Councilwoman Linda Ryno agreed with Wells and Durossette, saying nobody she knows had expectations where the money is to be spent.

Ken Lane, another member of the council, said motel operators expect the city to do more promotion of Ceres to help fill hotel rooms but said that may have to wait until the city catches up revenue shortfalls.

Measure E received the support of 927 votes, or 56.63 percent. A large number of voters - 710 - were against the tax. The measure needed a simple majority for passage.

He said he thought "it might be prudent if we were to convene a committee of either three or five individuals to kind of help us through the process of what we might be able to do with the TOT tax."