TOT UP 33%
Last updated 10/17/2019 at 11:48am
The numbers for FY 2018 – 19 are in from the County treasurer-tax collector on Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenue. Not only did the latest revenue from all over the County (from hotels and motels, resorts, camping fees in the Park, and other short term rentals) exceed the budget estimate by 113%, but Borrego's portion of that revenue also jumped 31% in the previous fiscal year ending June 30, compared to the last fiscal year.
We thought we'd never see again anything like the tremendous influx of sightseers during the Spring 2017 Super Bloom, and the strain it placed on our resources to deal with it, but we did. TOTs rose by 16% ($134,000) during the 2019 Super Bloom compared to the one in 2017. Thanks to advance planning, we were certainly far more prepared this year than in 2017.
Borrego's tourism dollars are highly dependent on its wide range of TOT sources. Tourists bring money to this town and spend it – on lodging, food, clothing, gas and automotive needs, RV sites, camping supplies, miscellaneous hardware, and personal items. And many return, year after year, and then tell their friends about the experience, some of whom come to see what the fuss is all about. TOT is a reflection of that positive individual and shared experience.
Borrego's TOT has risen steadily since 2012, the year at the end of the "Great Recession," to about $716,000 in FY2016 – 17. TOT then "dipped" about $70,000 last fiscal year, only to rise again to what still amounts to a 16% increase over the FY2016 – 17 peak-before-the-dip in TOT revenues; reportable lodging revenues for FY2017 – 18 also dipped, but only by about 11%, and are now 23% above the "pre-dip" year. More on "reportable lodging" later in the article.
As seen by the accompanying graphic, the dip in fiscal year revenues occurred between our two Super Bloom years (the Spring of both 2017 and 2019) that reflected an overwhelming influx of visitors to Borrego.
The FY2017 – 18 dip shown on the 1st graphic is obviously a reflection of the fact that we had flowers that Spring, but not a Super Bloom that would lots media attention and lots of extra sightseers.
It's pretty clear that according to the data, and when comparing the graphics, that Borrego Springs has contributed more than its fair share of TOT into County coffers than from other unincorporated towns: The rate of increase for Borrego's contribution is, on average, at a slightly steeper gradient (relative steepness of the curves) than for contributions from unincorporated towns around the County. Borrego's numbers reflect a small but steady (on average) "acceleration" year to year in TOT contributions than from other unincorporated towns since the Great Recession – about 10%, 12%, 12%, 14%, 15%, 13%, and 15%, respectively (source numbers rounded).
One more bit of interesting info derived from one of the tables on the subject of Reportable Lodging in Borrego Springs: In summary, the years prior to the Great Recession saw a trend of increased tourism dollars, peaking at nearly $6 million in FY2004 – 05, and nearly that much in FY2007 – 08. Comparing Borrego's FY2012 – 13 and FY2018 – 19 TOT data to that of the rest of the unincorporated towns throughout the County during those same periods, Borrego's contribution has risen from 10% of the unincorporated towns' TOT to its current contribution of about 15% of the unincorporated TOT. That's a 50% increase in only six years. Impressive, to say the least.
After the start of the Recession, it took 10 years for Borrego to bounce back financially. Starting in FY2014 – 15, it was as if the Recession was merely a glitch in Borrego's attractiveness to visitors and tourists.
But here's the main point: Since then, two Super Bloom's have helped to ensure both a steady rise in overall tourism along with a parallel rise in spending here in Borrego. TOT contributions to the County are a reflection of that. And that is surely a factor in not only asking for, but also receiving County political attention and needed financial and other resources for the long term financial health of Borrego Springs.
So the next time we have a Super Bloom, we should all try to focus on that, and not the aggravation and inconvenience caused by a couple of weeks of traffic hassles.