Basking in sunshine, if not rain, Santa Barbara continued to attract increasing numbers of tourists in March. The city recently announced that its transient occupancy tax (TOT) increased last month by 10 percent over March 2014, bringing the TOT total for the first nine months of the fiscal year to $13.6 million. Overall, TOT income is now a healthy 12.1 percent ahead of where it was at this point last year, and well on its way to the goal line of $17.6 million. Of the March 2015 increase in TOT, about 1.7 percent came from vacation rentals, said the city’s finance director, Bob Samario.
Hotel, motel, B&B, and vacation rental guests are also being asked to do their part with respect to the ongoing drought. The city has long given away notices for guests that offer them the option to hang onto their linens and hold off replacing their towels to save on laundry water, said Madeline Ward of the city’s water conservation department. Most properties installed low-flow toilets, taps, and showers during the last drought in the ’90s. Likewise, pool covers, both liquid and material, have been a mainstay to reduce water evaporation and heat loss. This time around, some properties are taking advantage of the city’s rebate of up to $2,000 to replace spray irrigation with drip and to plant drought-tolerant landscaping.
In March, the city also received its second-fiscal-quarter sales tax payment from the state, close to $5.6 million. That, too, has expanded over the previous period, with the to-date fiscal year showing growth of 4.7 percent and $11.1 million in sales tax.