Westlake Village : Voters May Rule on Bed Tax Decision

Westlake Village is studying the feasibility of placing a measure on the spring ballot that would ask voters to uphold a 1990 City Council decision to increase the hotel bed tax.

The study was requested by Councilman Doug Yarrow, who was responding to a state Supreme Court ruling in September that upheld a 1986 ballot measure that requires voter approval of general and special taxes.

"If the Supreme Court has ruled that this has to go to a vote of the people, then let's take it to a vote of the people," Yarrow said.

City Manager Ray Taylor said he plans to meet with the city attorney to discuss the legal issues and hopes to report back to the council in early November.

The Supreme Court ruling has created a quandary for many cities and special districts statewide, in part because the ruling leaves so many questions unanswered.

Officials say it's not clear, for example, whether government entities will have to refund revenue from all general and special taxes implemented without voter approval since 1986.

Legal experts say local governments could ask the Supreme Court for a rehearing to help clarify lingering questions.

Some officials say that if the ruling were deemed retroactive, it could wreak havoc for cities like Calabasas, which collects $1.7 million annually from a utility tax implemented without voter approval in 1992.

Agoura Hills, which implemented a utility tax last year, is prepared to make $1.2 million in cuts in case the ruling is deemed retroactive.

Westlake Village does not have a utility tax.

But, city officials say, it could lose $80,000 annually if voters rejected the 1990 council decision to increase bed taxes from 6% to 10%.

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