Should Long Beach tourists pay more for a hotel room so that the Convention and Entertainment Center and local arts organizations can have more funding?
That question will likely come before voters in the March 3 election. The Long Beach City Council approved adding the measure, which would add a 1% tax to hotel, motel and short-term rental stays, to the ballot during its Tuesday, Nov. 12, meeting.
The item will come back to the City Council for a final vote at its Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting.
Acting City Manager Tom Modica said that while the tax would only add between $1.80 to $2 to a night’s stay for visitors, it would generate roughly $2.8 million annually for the arts and the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.
Modica also said the tax increase would not significantly outpace surrounding cities’ fees. The total hotel tax in Long Beach is currently 15%. Los Angeles, meanwhile, charges 15.75%, while the same tax in Anaheim is 17% and in Huntington Beach stands at 14%.
Several members of the local arts and tourism communities spoke during Tuesday’s meeting to express support for the idea.
Long Beach Symphony President Kelly Lucera said the extra money would make a huge difference in her organization’s ability to stay in the black.
“I know you all understand the importance of great art institutions in our great city,” she said, “but I’m not sure you understand how precarious our funding is.”
Lucera said she recently had to scramble after a funding shortfall to balance the symphony’s $3.2 million budget. The organization ended up squeaking by with a $9,000 surplus, she said.
“The funding would be transformative for all of us,” she said, “instead of panicking on a day-to-day basis about making payroll.”
No one spoke against the ballot measure, but a couple of residents said they hoped there would be a mechanism to ensure the money is spent on arts and tourism — instead of simply being added to the city’s general fund.
“I’m wondering if, when you put this on the ballot, it’s going to be restricted to the arts, culture and the Convention Center,” local resident Ann Cantrell said. “If that’s the case, then I would be totally for it.”
City staff did not respond to that question.
Mayor Robert Garcia, for his part, said the added tax would make a huge difference in the city.
The measure “is a transformational opportunity to support the arts and tourism in Long Beach,” he said, “in a way that we probably have not been able to do in decades.”