Editorial

OVN EDITORIAL on Feb. 7 OPINION PAGE: 'Yes' on Measure C will improve city of Ojai for residents and tourists alike

The city of Ojai is falling behind even while it dreams of becoming a city that leads the way. Our city Public Works Department and city manager estimate the current cost of needed city improvements to be at least $47 million. On the list are repairing our roads, reducing fire hazards, improving drainage, and maintaining parks and recreation facilities.
Our roads take 29 years to pave while they wear out every 15. Since the city is required by law to have a balanced budget, infrastructure projects move to the back burner year after year. 
The city staff report for the Nov. 12 Ojai City Council meeting stated the city will be “faced with cutting resident-focused services” if funds are not raised.
To address the city’s vital needs, voters have to make choices about how to increase revenue.
Options include increasing the sales tax; promoting large-scale development; passing a bond measure, taxing cannabis (although that revenue alone is not enough); and increasing the Transient Occupancy Tax. 
Measure C on the March 3 ballot would increase the TOT tax by 5 percent.
Currently at 10%, the TOT has not been increased since 1971. Through a modest 5% increase to this “hotel tax,” 800,000 people who visit Ojai each year could assist in paying for needed earmarked improvements. It is a tax that residents don’t have to pay, which helps take care of our city so everyone can enjoy it. When the condition of our city is improved, residents and visitors alike can reap the benefits of maintained roads, sidewalks and pipelines, enhanced fire protection, and conversion to sustainable municipal power sources.
A modest increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax will help to protect Ojai and make it an even safer and better place to live and visit.
Ojai’s current “hotel tax” is lower than that in most California cities — 10% below Oxnard, Bakersfield and Fresno. Santa Barbara has a 12% Transient Occupancy Tax and combines that with a 1.5% higher sales tax to fund its vital city services. Ojai’s sales tax is currently among the very lowest in the state (7.25%) and we would like to keep it that way.
Funds from Measure C are earmarked, or designated, which will require 66% of the vote for Measure C to pass on March 3. 
If it does pass, it means this 5% increase will not go into the city’s General fund to be doled out to the project of the month. Rather, it will be spent only for fire-hardening and resilience; road/sidewalk maintenance; Recreation Department maintenance; and infrastructure projects such as Libbey Bowl, alternative power for city operations, maintained water pipes, and city code enforcement.
We must harden our community to wildland fire hazards, catch up with deferred maintenance and keep Ojai safe, sustainable and resilient.
Supporting Measure C is a way to come together to take care of the city’s pressing needs.
Ask your council member what a 5% increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax can do to improve our city, and vote yes on March 3 for Measure C.