Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – With a lull in sales tax revenue and some big expenses ahead, the City of Arcata is looking at ways to pump up revenue. It’s a disparity between supply (city funds) and demands (for services and projects).
According to the agenda for a July 25 City Council study session, “during the Council goal setting and budget review this year, it was clear that the City revenue sources are not keeping up with the cost to provide the current City service levels and that the community has interest in additional services/improvements that the City is not able to provide. The City also has pending financial demands, including rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment plant and increased pension obligations.”
No specific fundraising goals were discussed nor any measures agreed on at the meeting, only suggestions raised. By meeting’s end, city staff was charged with winnowing the many brainstormed ideas into a realistically doable
list of 10 revenue-boosting initiatives that could be implemented within a year or two for the council to further consider.
Enthusiasm wasn’t equal among councilmembers over particulars, but taxes, new or increased, were first discussed. Sin taxes – an alcohol service tax and different types of cannabis taxes – were aired.
“We created this giant zone [the Cannabis Innovation Zone),” said Councilmember Paul Pitino. “I don’t see why we can’t touch that a little bit.”
Also mentioned was raising the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), a 10 percent bed tax on lodging facility guests. While Arcata’s Utility Users Tax (UUT), a 3 percent tax on electricity, gas, telecommunications, water and sewer services. doesn’t expire until Dec. 2024, it could theoretically be reintroduced at a higher rate.
A parks and open space property tax has long been discussed. The city is hiring a pollster for $14,000 to get some idea of its popularity with voters. Also mentioned was a cigarette tax to fund litter abatement. So was a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
Overhauling the city’s $41 flat fee for business licenses was considered, with talk of a possible tiered system.
With city planners already studying Arcata’s parking situation, the possibility of modern electronic metering was mulled.
The potential for construction-related fees, such as parkland in lieu fees, will be studied.
The council even touched the third rail of sponsorships of public spaces, something previous councils have resisted. A “careful” conversation was gingerly authorized on possible sponsorships that wouldn’t harm local businesses or change the town’s character.
New ways to capitalize on Arcata’s natural assets were considered. Community Development Director David Loya said his department is working on a market study, identifying gaps for later development of a business infill plan.
The bay side of town, so popular with residents and tourists alike, holds commercial opportunity. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Santuary could host “pop-up restaurants” on some periodic basis.
Even possible vending spaces located along the well-traveled Humboldt Bay Trail North were considered. So was the possibility of more revenue-raising festivals in Redwood Park, such as the late, great Bebop & Brew.
Other ideas raised:
• “Standby” fees for maintaing utility access to vacant buildings
• Fees for “green burial” in the forest
• Annexation of the Pacific Manor neighborhood
• Creation of an eco-hostel or lodge in the Bayview Ranch property or Redwood Park
• A tourist-attracting dog park