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A night in a hotel in Santa Barbara County could be a bit more expensive.

“I don’t know of any place that has 14%, which seems significant to me,” said Simon Dunstan, manager and co-owner of the Cheshire Cat Inn.

Dunstan has been welcoming visitors for 40 years and says guests notice the additional fees.

“I don’t want to say they are shocked by it, but they are surprised at the amount of taxes they have to pay,” Dunstan said.

Guests could soon face an even bigger increase, as the county’s tax authority released a letter earlier this month proposing an increase in the transient occupancy tax from 12% to 14%. Dunstan says this could have unintended consequences.

“The concern with the overall increase in TOT is that it may make us less competitive as a destination,” Dunstan explained.

For comparison, according to county websites, the TOT in San Luis Obispo County is 9% and in Ventura County it is 8%.

At Santa Barbara’s current TOT of 12%, a $250 room costs an extra $30 per night, for a total of $280 before additional fees. At 14%, the room costs $285 per night.

“Our tourists also depend on the city services that support them, so it is appropriate that tourists pay taxes,” said Keith DeMartini, finance director for the city of Santa Barbara.

According to a letter from the tax authority, the county’s TOT increase could generate $2.9 million in revenue that would impact 24 hotels and 520 short-term rental properties in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County. A second reading of the proposed increase will take place next month, and if the proposal passes, it will go on the general ballot in November.

“If a TOT measure were on the ballot, Santa Barbara residents would vote on it, but they don’t pay this tax. It’s paid by people who come to visit and stay in a short-term rental or hotel,” DeMartini said.

The district last increased the TOT from 10% to 12% in 2016.

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