The county’s Transient Occupancy Tax revenue collected during Fiscal Year 2014-15 set a record for at least the 21st century and likely for all time.
“It looks very positive and of course we’re elated because it means more revenues are coming forward to the county,” said county treasurer-tax collector Dan McAllister.
The county had $4,166,354.90 of TOT collections during 2014-15. The century’s previous high was the $3,473,838.85 collected during 2007-08. The 2013-14 total of $3,403,805.14 was the highest other than in 2007-08 and 2014-15. The county’s 2014-15 collections of $3,079,939.91 for the first three quarters of 2014-15 exceeded the four-quarter totals for any of the five fiscal years from 2008-09 to 2012- 13. The county collected $2,646,965.75 in 2012-13 and $2,579,408.47 in 2011-12.
“It speaks well of our economy. The economy is starting to turn around,” McAllister said.
“That’s a good sign,” McAllister said. “It means that small and large businesses are doing more business.”
The TOT is collected only from lodging facilities in the county’s unincorporated area, although the revenue is used for the county’s Community Enhancement program and may be given to organizations in incorporated cities as well as unincorporated communities. Community Enhancement funds, which are allocated during the county’s annual budget process, are intended to promote tourism including visitors from other parts of the county.
The Transient Occupancy Tax, which was reduced from 9 percent of the lodging unit rate to 8 percent in October 2007, is collected from occupants of hotels, motels, bed and breakfast venues, mobile home parks, private campgrounds, and other structures occupied or intended for occupancy by non-residents for lodging or sleeping purposes.
A timeshare unit used by an ownership partner or an owner’s guest is not subject to the TOT, although if it is rented to the general public that unit is subject to the tax for that period. A higher ownership occupancy rate at the Welk Resort during 2014-15 thus reduced the number of units available for rental to the public, as did Welk unit closures which are part of a multi-year renovation program, so TOT collection for unincorporated Escondido declined from $555,498.63 in 2013-14 to $481,441.86 during 2014-15 although that was still an increase from the 2012-13 amount of $453,777.46. If a campground has a membership program a member or a member’s guest is exempt from TOT payments.
Campgrounds at the eight county parks with such facilities are not subject to the TOT, nor are lodging facilities on Indian reservations or other areas where the County of San Diego has no taxing power. A Federal or State of California officer or employee on official business is exempt from the tax, as is any foreign government officer or employee exempt under Federal law or international treaty. The tax is not collected if the regular rent is four dollars a day or less or if the lodger receives a free room where the only consideration received is publicity for the lodging site. Units occupied or rented for more than 30 consecutive days are not subject to the TOT.
The facility operator must submit payment to the county on a quarterly basis by the last day of the month following the end of the calendar year. If the facility ceases operation, the payment must be made within 30 days after the operator ceases doing business, and if the facility is sold or its name is changed the county must receive the TOT payments for occupancy prior to the sale or name change within 30 days of the transaction.
The decrease in Welk Resort units available for rental dropped unincorporated Escondido from second among the recognized communities in 2013-14 to fourth for 2014-15. Renovations involving the Lake San Marcos Resort and the Golden Door spa and resort have caused unincorporated San Marcos revenue to increase from a ninth-place $119,621.53 in 2012-13 to a fifth-ranked $353,797.97 for 2013-14 to a second-place $687,212.59 during 2014-15. Rancho Santa Fe had the highest collections for all three of those years with $536,619.83 for 2012-13, $928,397.29 during 2013- 14, and $1,190,180.82 in 2014-15. The TOT collection included 23 communities in 2012-13 and 2013-14 but added unincorporated La Mesa for 2014-15. Fallbrook ranked third with $320,388.34 of 2012-13 collections while Borrego Springs had the third-place 2013-14 figure of $399,919.91 and the third-place amount of $492,798.44 for 2014-15.
Countywide first-quarter TOT revenue from July through September increased from $882,294.50 during 2013 to $1,105,521.86 for 2014. In 2013 Escondido had $185,999.39 of first- quarter revenue to rank second behind Rancho Santa Fe, and the 2014 total of $197,250.88 also ranked second. The San Marcos total of $50,761.16 ranked fifth for 2013 while the 2014 collection amount of $133,195.54 moved San Marcos to third ahead of Fallbrook and Julian.
The California Horse Racing Board gave the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club a four-week fall meet for November 2014, and the increased activity in Del Mar carried over to second-quarter lodging in Rancho Santa Fe. Rancho Santa Fe’s $358,099.98 of collections for the first quarter was up 25.4 percent from the 2013 amount of $285,505.14 while countywide the increase was 25.3 percent. The 2014 second-quarter TOT revenue for Rancho Santa Fe was $253,710.79, an increase of 43.8 percent from the 2013 second-quarter amount of $176,452.90. For the entire unincorporated county the October through December total of $864,790.30 was 12.6 percent above the 2013 figure of $767,684.39.
“It’s bound to have a positive push,” McAllister said of the Del Mar fall meet. “It’s very good for everybody in the whole surrounding area. I’m sure it’s good for Del Mar, I’m sure it’s good for the City of San Diego.”
During the second quarter of 2013-14 Escondido ranked second with $111,084.87, Borrego Springs was third with $107,625.76, and San Marcos was fourth with $102,480.00. Borrego Springs took over second place for the 2014-15 second quarter with $128,924.75 while San Marcos collected $102,613.85, Fallbrook collected $85,479.09 for the fourth ranking, and Escondido collected $81,942.81 to rank fifth.
The county’s third-quarter revenue increased from $826,818.49 in 2014 to $1,109,627.45 for 2015. The January-March revenues for San Marcos increased from $84,236.20 to $222,452.11 which ranked fourth for 2014 and second in 2015. Third- quarter Escondido payments declined from $112,332.16 to $99,396.26, although the ranking dropped from third to fourth only because of the San Marcos gain.
Payments for the fourth quarter from April through June increased on a countywide basis from $926,997.76 for 2014 to $1,086,415.29 in 2015. Escondido saw the largest numerical drop between 2014 and 2015 with collections falling from $146,082.21 to $102,851.91 while the largest fourth- quarter increase was the San Marcos gain from $116,502.61 to $228,951.09. Escondido’s rank dropped from second to fourth with San Marcos moving from third to second and Borrego Springs taking over third place.