Documented by Artemes Gidram
What happened: At its Thursday meeting, the Sanger City Council advanced placing an increased Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) of 12% on the March 2024 primary ballot.
If approved by voters, the current tax of 4% would be increased to 12% for those who stay at hotels in the city.
The current TOT was enacted in 1960 and has not been placed on the ballot since, despite an effort by the City Council to place a 10% TOT on the ballot in 2016.
In 2019, the city hired a consultant to prepare a Hotel Market Study and Feasibility Analysis, which found that TOTs in neighboring jurisdictions in Fresno and Tulare counties range from 8% to 12%.
Council member Esmeralda Hurtado proposed to instead changing the tax to 8%. She said that she felt 12% was too high for Sanger, since it is not along the busy Highway 99 corridor like other cities with a 12% TOT, such as Selma, Fresno and Kingsburg.
But Council member Michael Montelongo disagreed, saying he believes Sanger has its own traffic since it is the last major stop before Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks.
Placing the TOT increase on the March 2024 ballot will cost the city between $20,000 and $25,000, according to the meeting agenda.
Two residents spoke in opposition to the TOT increase. A resident named Roman said he was opposed to it because it would directly tax individuals experiencing homelessness who use hotels as shelter.
Although there was no discussion of what specific projects would be funded using the increased tax revenue, another resident, Moises Hernandez, said he believes it would be used to fund council members’ personal projects.
Voters in nearby Clovis passed Measure B, a TOT increase from 10% to 12% to fund public safety, in November 2022.
Boxing gym to reopen: Sanger Mayor Frank Gonzalez announced that the Sanger Boxing Gym will reopen on Wednesday after it was abruptly closed by the city last month following the suspension of its coach by USA Boxing.
Former Head Boxing Coach Mario Garcia will be replaced by another coach who was not named at the meeting.
Garcia was at Thursday’s meeting, and said that closing the gym was unnecessary. He compared his 60-day suspension by USA Boxing to getting a parking ticket, and said that he was bullied by Acting City Manager and Police Chief Greg Garner.
The suspension stemmed from speculation that the gym held an unsanctioned contest or tournament.
Several residents attended the meeting and admonished the council for closing the gym.
“You can announce that the gym is going to be open on Wednesday, which is great,” said resident Ruben Hernandez. “The kids need it. That’s a good thing. But, you did make some wrong decisions along the way.”
Up next: The Sanger City Council will meet again on Sept. 21.