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I-Team: Palm Springs to rehire positions as extra tax money pours into city’s budget

The city of Palm Springs will rehire more than a dozen positions that had been eliminated from its budget during the pandemic, including several police officers and firefighters.

The city council agreed Thursday evening to fill 7 firefighter positions and 6 positions within the city's police department. The police jobs include 2 police sergeant positions, two officer positions, a code enforcement officer, and one community services officer. More positions were also expected to be approved.

News Channel 3 has reported on the city's projected budget shortfall of nearly $80 million.

So where would the money for those positions come from? 

I-Team investigator Peter Daut took at look at tthe city's budget and found that the funds would come from the transient occupancy tax, it TOT.

The city's TOT is growing, pouring millions of dollars each month into the city's budget.

Despite having no conventions, no large special events, and no weddings this year, TOT collections in Palm Springs were higher in july, August and September compared to the same months last year before the pandemic.

The I-Team obtained the numbers for TOT collections by hotels and vacation rentals.

There was an increase of at least $200,000 for each month compared to 2019 despite this year's record-breaking heat.

Looking at the totals, that's a jump of about 10 percent or an extra $622,000.

Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors said he is not surprised by the numbers. He added that visitors have flocked to the valley during the pandemic.. eager to escape crowded cities.

"And rather than be in a cramped apartment somewhere, they could rent a house or stay in a hotel and work virtually in a beautiful location with great weather so it's understandable that people want to be here," Kors said.

More: Palm Springs attracting tourists looking for destinations with strong COVID-19 protocols

It also helps with the city's budget shortfall.

"This is how we fund our city is through TOT and sales tax and property taxes," Kors said.

Kors says the city is now looking to use that extra money to rehire 20 positions that had been eliminated including six police officers and four firefighters.

The majority of TOT collections were from vacation rentals with less than half from hotels.

"60 percent of our business for hotels, especially the large hotels, is all convention groups and special events. So unless and until we get a full green light from the state that we can conduct those events we will continue to suffer," said Aftab Dada, chairman of PS Resorts.

That green light from the state is unlikely to come soon since coronavirus cases in the Riverside County continue to rise.

The city also admits the influx of people from out of town is a double-edged sword, which is why there are more restrictions in Palm Springs than other parts of the valley.

"For the most part people are following the rules. Our businesses have done a great job overall in enforcing the rules and working with our code enforcement and police. And all that helps our economy survive as we have to live through the virus at least until early next year," Kors said.

The Palm Springs City Council will decide whether to use that money to add 20 positions to the budget.

It's also worth mentioning southwest airlines begins service to palm springs this weekend bringing more visitors. So the city expects those t-o-t numbers to climb.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

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Peter Daut

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