New District to Collect Room Fees in Oxnard

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Oxnard City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to form a special assessment district that would charge hotels and motels a fee on room rentals to help finance the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Several months ago former City Manager David Mora recommended that the city eliminate the bureau to save $398,000 and help reduce the city's projected $2.8-million deficit in the 1990-91 budget.

Instead the City Council voted to contribute $199,000 to keep the bureau open until December. The action was intended to give the city time to identify new ways to pay the bureau's six full-time staff members.

The new assessment district will include all hotels, motels and apartments for transients in the city. Each business would be assessed a 2% fee on room rents, which will generate about $360,000 each year, city officials said.

The City Council heard no protests Tuesday.

City Atty. Gary Gillig, who recommended the action, said it may take several months to form an assessment district. He said the city is required to conduct several studies and give hotel and motel owners a chance to protest.

The assessment district was supported by Robert D. Varley, executive chairman of the bureau.

"I feel confident that I can win the support of the major hotels or at least convince them not to oppose this," he said.

If the city receives written protests from hotel and motel owners who would produce 50% or more of the fees, it can't legally form the district, Gillig said.

Before adopting the proposal, the council also considered asking voters to approve a 2% increase in the city's bed tax charged on all hotel and motel rooms in Oxnard. The city now has a 9% bed tax, officially called a transient occupancy tax. Most cities, such as Thousand Oaks and Ventura, charge 10%.

Although an increase in the bed tax would have generated $360,000 a year, the council cannot raise bed taxes, or any other taxes, without voter approval.

Tuesday was the last day that the council could have placed such a tax measure on the November ballot, city officials said.

Fearing that voters would reject a tax increase, council members decided instead to set up a special assessment district, which does not require voter approval.

Varley said if the bureau makes a strong effort to attract tourists to Oxnard hotels and motels, the assessment fee could generate more than the bureau's current annual budget of $389,000.

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