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Nine groups awarded share of motel tax revenues
• Groups each awarded $4,444 share of TOT revenues
Motel tax Ceres
The city charges a Transient & Occupancy Tax (TOT) on rooms rented out at the two motels in Ceres. The Microtel Inn is seen above.

The nine groups which applied for grant funds from the city’s “motel tax” revenues were all awarded money last week.

Representatives from the nine groups made a pitch at the Oct. 14 Ceres City Council meeting for $5,000 apiece from the allocated $40,000 in revenue from the recently-increased Transient & Occupancy Tax (TOT). At the behest of an advisory committee, the city set up a Community Activities Grant program to fund programs or events intended to generate visits to Ceres to help spur the local economy.

After the pitches were made, council members were asked to rate the requests. But members decided they had additional options that included upping the grant amount to $45,000 to give each group $5,000 apiece; or granting all nine groups $4,444 apiece.

At the Oct. 21 meeting the council voted 4-0 to give all nine groups $4,444 apiece. Councilman Bret Durossette voted for the option after expressing a desire that the city increase the grant total to $45,000 in order to give each of the groups $5,000 apiece.

Mayor Chris Vierra excused himself from voting because one of his business partners had requested funds.

The TOT has generated $250,000 for fiscal year 2018-19 and $262,000 for the 2019-20 budget year.

Ceres resident Shirley Rogers asked why money was being given to “all these groups that make money.” She singled out Shane Parson who charges entry fees for his events at Diamond Bar Arena.

Ryno said the idea is to help groups promote events to bring visitors to Ceres.

The nine groups which will be receiving the $4,444 are:

• Ceres Youth Soccer Organization, which wants to put on recreational and competitive leagues;

• Ceres Earthquakes FC, which is planning to put on a two-day Fiesta Super Copa tournament;

• Whitmore Mansion Foundation, which wants to put on a wedding event for Valentine’s Day;

• Ceres Street Faire Committee, which wants to better promote attendance at the 2020 event;

•CSU Stanislaus, seeking money to underwrite a Kim Duyst Invitational for cross country;

• Diamond Bar Arena located south of Ceres, for the California State Horsemen State Champion Drill Team competition and the Sherry Cervi Youth Barrel Racing Championships;

• Junior Golf Association of Northern California for a Shoot Out event at River Oaks Golf Course;

• Ceres Chamber of Commerce which wants to organize the return of the Ceres Bands, Brews & BBQ Throw-down in 2020.

Randy Cerny of Ceres Youth Soccer said his group wants to replace worn-out goals for the 1,000 youth players. 

The Ceres Earthquake FC proposes to use the funds to host its first annual competitive soccer tournament at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park in May, August or November of 2020. Twenty to 30 teams would be attracted from all over Northern California that would bring in 500 to 700 spectators, coaches and family members. 

Lisa Mantarro Moore said the Whitmore Mansion Foundation wants to put on a Wedding Extravaganza on Valentine’s Day using the city clerk to officiate affordable weddings at the mansion with receptions.

Moore also represented the Ceres Street Faire, saying the group wants to promote the event to bring in more people, possibly through billboards, radio, TV or social media. 

Parson asked for funding to help promote the Sherry Cervi Youth Barrel Racing Championships brings in 400 to 500 entrants and 2,000 to 2,200 people into the community; and the California State Horsemen State Champion Drill Team competition which brings in 250 entrants and about 700 spectators.

Renee Ledbetter of the Ceres Chamber, said her idea is to bring back the Ceres Bands, Brews & BBQ Throwdown, last held in 2017. The event features live bands, a beer garden and a sanctioned barbecue competition that has been held at three different venues – the Tuolumne River Lodge in 2014 and 2015, River Oaks Golf Course in 2016 and Whitmore Park in 2017. The event normally is held in August.

River Oaks Golf Course plans to use the funds to partner with the Junior Golf Association of Northern California for a two-day Shoot Out event; and a cross country night run organized by CSUS for high school and college runners. 

The city of Ceres has charged a tax on hotel rooms since 1964 but voters approved Measure E in 2015 to double the percentage from five to 10 percent.

Since its passage the TOT revenues increased from $101,000 to $228,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The tax is collected on the 109 rooms split between the Microtel Inn & Suites and Howard Johnson Inn.

The council appointed an ad hoc committee last year to decide where to best spend the extra revenues.