Placer Supervisors affirm policy of investing North Tahoe lodging tax revenues locally, approve more funding for local projects

Published on October 24, 2017

What’s spent in Tahoe stays in Tahoe. It’s been Placer County’s long-standing practice to invest lodging taxes collected in eastern Placer County back into the communities where they’re generated. Today, the county Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution formalizing that approach, affirming the county’s commitment to investing 100 percent of lodging taxes generated in North Lake Tahoe to support tourism and implement the county’s 2015 Tourism Master Plan for the region.

The board also approved a contract renewal with the firm Host Compliance, which has been helping the county ensure short-term lodging providers are paying their fair share of guest lodging taxes.

Placer annually collects more than $18 million in lodging taxes countywide, with about 96 percent of that generated in greater North Lake Tahoe. Community members have voted three times since 1996 to approve a 2 percent increase in the North Lake Tahoe collection area above the 8 percent rate collected throughout the rest of the county, so lodging guests in North Tahoe pay a 10 percent tax on overnight accommodation of less than 30 days.

Since 1996, the county has spent $36 million in lodging tax revenues on visitor-serving projects in North Lake Tahoe, and helped secure an additional $250 million in state and federal funding for Tahoe projects. Still, the Tourism Master Plan identifies an additional $100 million in needed projects and services in North Lake Tahoe - including trails, signage, expanded transit and marketing - to remain competitive with other resort communities.

In 2016, Placer County contracted with the firm Host Compliance to help improve compliance with the county’s lodging tax ordinance, which requires short-term lodging providers to collect and remit the tax from their guests. Since the program launched in November 2016, Host Compliance has identified 1,200 non-compliant properties and assisted Placer County with registering those properties and collecting back tax due.

So far, 850 of those property owners have been contacted and 464 of those have registered and paid back tax, resulting in $850,000 in new revenue. Overall, lodging tax revenue, including back tax collected, increased by $1.45 million last year, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

During the past year, Host Compliance has identified approximately 250 new property listings on vacation rental websites per month. To help continue the county’s efforts to ensure compliance, the board approved a one-year contract extension with Host Compliance, in an amount not to exceed $210,000.

Placer County continues to engage community members and local business associations, including the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, on how best to invest lodging tax revenues in local projects and services. County staff expect to bring the terms of a new multi-year contract with NLTRA back to the board for consideration in January, outlining NLTRA’s visitor and marketing services responsibilities as well as their role in engaging the community about priorities for project investment.

Among the public outreach strategies that have emerged from ongoing discussions with NLTRA is the idea of Placer County and NLTRA serving as co-chairs of a committee to review and recommend projects to the Board of Supervisors, as well as co-hosting three public meetings in November throughout North Lake Tahoe to solicit more input.

Three meetings will be held in early November (details forthcoming) for the public to review the Tourism Master Plan priorities with the community, discuss what’s missing, what’s next, funding strategies to achieve the goals and even talk through the preferred structure of the committee that will be making recommendations about which projects to invest in.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from the community that the focus of the county’s and resort association’s continued partnership has to be on including the broadest possible input into prioritizing projects, and that’s exactly our plan,” said Erin Casey, senior management analyst for North Lake Tahoe. 

The board today also approved lodging tax funding for two projects approved by the Board of Supervisors in February.

Placer will provide $125,000 for the continued development of the Squaw Valley Ski Museum project, matched by $163,068 in funding from the Squaw Valley Ski Museum Foundation. The total $288,068 will fund completion of the project’s third phase, including environmental planning, architectural design, museum display planning and ongoing public outreach.

The county will also contribute $135,000 for improvements at North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista, including trail upgrades, new signage and replacement of damaged fitness station equipment. The balance of the $189,000 project cost will be provided by the North Tahoe Public Utility District, under a contract approved today by the board.