The Winters City Council approved the deferral of the Hotel Tax, a new tax credit investor and appointed committee members at their Dec. 1 regular City Council meeting.
Hotel tax deferred to come into effect in February
The City Council voted unanimously to reverse an ordinance that effectively allowed hotels — and hotel-like businesses — to defer paying transient occupancy taxes to the city. The deferral, originally passed in April, took away penalties and interest that would normally accrue as a result of not paying the tax on time, providing relief to local hotels as they faced financial hardships spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hotel Winters and the Abby House Inn closed in March, April and May as a result of state and county stay-at-home orders, according to Shelly Gunby, the City’s Director of Financial Management. Both businesses opened in the months shortly after, and transit occupancy taxes accrued: the city estimates that $90,431 is due from both of these businesses for the February to September operating period, and an additional $76,000 will be owed by the time the ordinance takes effect, on Feb. 1, 2021, bringing the total amount owed to about $166,431, Gunby said.
Hotels and similar businesses will have until June 30, 2021, to come up with the deferred balance, and the tax will revert to a normal schedule, with payment due each month, starting once the ordinance takes effect.
In response to a question from council member Bill Biasi, Gunby said Airbnb appeared to have been taking advantage of the TOT deferral as well; the last TOT payment the city received from the company was in January this year.
“We were getting quarterly remittances from Airbnb up until the time we had the urgency ordinance,” Gunby said.
Mayor Wade Cowan said that, as much as he hates to ask for taxes, the city needs the money. He added that he is happy businesses have until June 30 to pay the deferred tax.
“The longer we wait, the harder it gets, so I’m glad to see this moving forward,” Cowan said.
New Low-Income Housing tax credit investor
The Council approved a substitute investor, La Riviera, a non-profit, as a new limited partner in the Winters II tax credit funded housing development, replacing Union Bank.
In effect, the move means the Community Housing Operations Corporation (CHOC) is taking over investor interest in the development, as La Riviera is an affiliate of CHOC and controlled by it. Since CHOC already manages the development, there will be no change in normal operations, and the move comes at no cost to the city.
Winters Senior Center fundraising committee
The Winters City Council also appointed four members to the Winters Senior Center Furniture and Fixtures Fundraising Committee.
Cowan said after interviewing several applicants alongside council member Pierre Neu, they selected Marlene Bell, Karen May, Marianne Boyer and Sandy Vickrey to be on the Winters Senior Center Furniture and Fixtures Fundraising Committee. At the meeting, Neu was chosen by the council — and volunteered — to be the committee’s council liaison.
The construction of the Winters Senior Center — which will be located adjacent to the Blue Mountain Terrace Apartment Complex and the Winters Healthcare Building — is funded through a grant the city received and additional Community Development Block Grant income. But neither source of funding allows for buying the furniture or fixtures for the center, so, on Oct. 6, the council voted to create the committee to research and fundraise for the purpose of procuring those needed items, such as chairs, tables, kitchen utensils, couches and televisions.
The committee is ad-hoc and will disband upon the construction of the facility. Donations made to the city for the committee’s account are tax deductible.
Cowan thanked Bell and May for bringing the item to him and Gunby.
“This is definitely needed, and getting this going early like we are, it gives us a lot of time to get some funds raised and get all this stuff put together so, day one when the doors open we’ll be fully functional and fully staffed,” Cowan said.
Bell said that the committee members really want for it to be a community committee, so she wanted to clarify that she and May don’t represent the Winters Senior Foundation — which they both serve on — on the committee.
“We are two individuals who sat down one night and we started having a conversation, and Karen said, ‘you know, we need to do something about all the equipment and furniture,’” Bell said. “By the time we finished talking it was time to talk to somebody on the City Council.”
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. View the agenda and packet online at http://www.cityofwinters.org/city-council-meetings_/.