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Hotel tax oversight committee ordered by city
The tax charged on rooms like these at Microtel Inn & Suites has brought in about $100,000 to city coffers. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The city is firming up the makeup of a new oversight panel designed to provide input on where funds from the Transient & Occupancy Tax should be spent.

Last week City Manager Toby Wells suggested that a Citizens' Advisory Committee consist of seven members, including councilmembers Linda Ryno and Bret Durossette, three Ceres residents and city manager and Finance Department director who will serve as non-voting members. Wells suggested that at least one participant be from the business community.

Applications are being sought with the deadline being in December. Appointments would come Jan. 8 with meetings occurring each monthly, likely the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m.

Ryno wanted to simplify the application from the current form used for applying for various other city ad hoc committees, saying there is no need to ask for examples of community service or education level.

Ceres has had a tax on the renting of hotel rooms since 1964. Talk about an ad hoc committee surfaced after Ceres voters approved the doubling of the tax from five to 10 percent in November 2015. The measure was written to not require an oversight panel but earlier this year Mayor Chris Vierra suggested a citizen panel could make recommendations on where an estimated $100,000 per year from the hotel tax should be spent. Wells said the ballot measure was crafted with no promises where the money would be allocated. Had the city designated a specific area to use the money, the city would have needed a two-thirds majority for passage. However, Vierra asserted that many citizens who voted to increase the Transient and Occupancy Tax (TOT) felt that the revenue would help promote Ceres to outsiders rather than be spent on public safety.

Measure E received the support of 927 votes, or 56.63 percent. A large number of voters - 710 - were against the tax even though most Ceres residents will not be paying the TOT. The measure needed a simple majority for passage.