TRUCKEE, Calif. — In light of the Tahoe Forest Hospital District board's recent vote to raise the tax rate for Measure C by $9.67 per $100,000 assessed property value, officials last week debated the stability of the Measure J bond that many area property owners will be asked to vote on this November.Representing those in favor of Measure J were residents Dan Kates and Bob French, members of the group Truckee First, who spoke at a forum sponsored by numerous local organizations and media last Thursday at the Truckee Town Council chambers. Representing the opposition was resident Lynne Larson, chairwoman of the group Truckee Citizens for Responsible Government.A question posed was if the spokespeople believed there has been enough analysis done on Measure J to tell voters within the Truckee-Donner Recreation andamp; Parks District with “confidence” the tax rate would stay around $7 per $100,000 of assessed property over its 30-year lifespan.“It's not unheard of at all that rates of bond measures are slightly adjusted,” French responded. “You have to understand that the amount alone remains the same and the amount of revenue needed to pay for that loan remains the same, so if property values are decreasing, then obviously the rate is going to get adjusted.”The likelihood of property values decreasing further, causing the tax rate for Measure J to increase, is slim, Kates said during the pro-Measure J side's opening comments.“Measure C went out in 2007, which was absolutely the peak of the housing bubble,” he said. “I think very few present would argue that we're in the middle of a housing bubble, so I think the risk of history repeating itself as (with) the case of Measure C is highly remote.”Later in the forum, French echoed Kates' sentiments.“The magnitude of the adjustment of Measure C is something we would have never expected because nobody expected the degree of recession that we were going to experience starting in 2008,” he said. “I don't believe that it's likely that there would be an adjustment of that same magnitude, but there will be some slight adjustments along the way, which every bond measure experiences.”It's that possibility that has Larson is wary, however.“There would be nothing to prevent the district from raising the amount we pay in the future just as the hospital board recently did with Measure C,” she said, later adding: “I'm sorry to say that Measure C just hit us between the eyes, and regardless of how much this bond would generate, I don't have that kind of trust.”According to Kates, a study was done estimating that approximately $2 million would be brought into the local economy as a result of having the performing arts and aquatic centers. Through possible events held at each of the facilities such as film festivals and swim competitions, people would be attracted to the area and would spend their money in shops, restaurants, hotels and other local establishments.“The proponents promise revenue for the community,” Larson said. “Who will benefit? Will you benefit? Will I benefit? A handful, maybe.”To which French countered: “Mind you, that's just the first time that the money comes into the community. There's a multiplying factor. The people who run the gas stations and the restaurants and the other businesses, they will spend their money in our community, as well, so there's a multiplying effect on that.”
Another issue of contention regarding Measure J is its timing.“Counterintuitive as it may seem, this is really a unique moment in time,” Kates said. “Interest rates are at an all-time low and construction costs are very low, so it's probably at least a once-in-a-generation, if not a once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity to buy both these facilities on sale.”While the timing for the district might seem optimal, Larson said “it couldn't be worse for those who are expected to pay.”With high unemployment, people being underemployed and foreclosures still occurring, she said this is not the right time for the district to be asking for money from its residents.“There are those who say it isn't much money per household — 21 bucks a year for some of us,” Larson said. “Who are they to say how much isn't much.”“It's just like when you're buying your first house,” French countered. “Often times it's uncomfortable to buy it; you're not fully there with the mortgage payment, but you scrimp, you save, you cut costs and you do what you can to be able to afford it. As time passes, it becomes more and more affordable.”Larson pointed out there is no reason for people to have to scrimp.“If the district wants a swimming pool or an aquatics center, they should build it,” she said. “Go ahead. Use the $7 million you already have ... The district should choose the project that is most important to them. Prove to us that their promises are valid and then ask us again when the economy has improved to build whatever it was they didn't build the first time.”To which French rebutted: “The opposition to Measure J talks about ‘let's wait until we can afford it.' There's not ever going to be a better time to afford it than we have right now ... If we wait, as the opposition suggests we do, we may never have this opportunity again, and in fact, the cost of constructing these facilities will probably be outside of what we're able to afford.”“Don't be threatened by the fear that if we don't build it now, we never will,” Larson said in response.