Diligence necessary in passing tax proposal (dk) Locals look to North Shore for advice | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Diligence necessary in passing tax proposal (dk) Locals look to North Shore for advice

Some in Lake Tahoe Unified School District take comfort that their North Shore neighbor was able to pass a parcel tax that now generates more than $2 million annually. But those in Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District said it took months before the school board passed a resolution to put the matter on the ballot. Debra Darby was a school board member for Tahoe-Truckee when the first parcel tax was approved in 1989 by more than two-thirds of the 7,000 or so registered voters. Darby, who no longer serves on the board, guessed the district campaigned feverishly for six to seven months making sure there was community support for the $48 tax per parcel before the board voted on it. After the vote, it went to a ballot measure and passed. There were three fund-raisers and talks to service groups such as Rotary and Soroptimist. Phone surveys went out to gauge how much homeowners were willing to spend and what areas they would support. Some board members went door-to-door. People were receptive to more nurses and counselors but support wavered with the mention of athletics. When the board passed the tax proposal after several months of research, campaigning didn’t stop. “Once it’s on the ballot, that’s just the beginning of your work,” Darby said. A committee of parents, community members, teachers and district representatives determined where the funding would go. “What they came up with was increased music, art, (physical education) at the lower levels, counseling, nurses,” said Wanda Stewart, a budget technician for the district. “They fund positions at the elementary school for PE, art, music, etc. What they do is supplement, they don’t supplant what the general fund would offer. In other words, it wouldn’t pay for a teacher that the general fund would.” Darby has served on LTUSD’s school board in the past, before her time on Tahoe-Truckee’s board. She wished her old district luck but was concerned with LTUSD putting the parcel tax on the fast track. “That’s pretty quick,” she said. – E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.

Uncounted ballots in Placer, Nevada counties stall election

TAHOE CITY/TRUCKEE ” It could be weeks until many local races are decided, after area counties reported thousands of absentee ballots still uncounted. While County Web sites posted all precincts as reporting late Tuesday night, officials said potentially tens of thousands of absentee ballots are still uncounted. “There may be 10,000 to 12,000 absentee ballots that were turned into the polls, and 3,000 or 4,000 provincial ballots,” said Placer County Clerk Recorder Jim McCauley. “That has the potential to sway some local elections.” While a more accurate tally of how many ballots are uncounted is expected soon, results won’t be changed until the canvassing period ends in a matter of weeks, McCauley said. “We don’t do the results peace-meal,” he said. Gail Smith, acting assistant clerk recorder for Nevada County, said the canvas ends Dec. 2. Nevada County’s uncounted ballot numbers were lower than Placer’s, Smith said. Early estimates for Truckee uncounted ballots were around 1,000, and another 2,700 for the rest of the county, Smith said. And the trend holds true statewide, with an estimated 2.6 million to 3 million ballots still untallied, reported the Associated Press. Truckee Town Council is one race locally that hangs in the balance. “Four years ago I got 3,700 votes, and Josh [Susman] got 3,300, and this year so far we both have about 2,200,” said current Mayor and candidate Barbara Green. “Something is not quite right.” The missing votes could have repercussions as far reaching as the tightly-contested 4th Congressional District race between Republican Tom McClintock and Democrat Charlie Brown, Green said. Proponents of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Measure U hoped the outstanding ballots may make the difference. “Clearly there’s been a major administrative error. We are hopefully those outstanding ballots will push Measure U over the top,” said Alison Elder, Measure U chair. Some local representatives expressed concern with the speed at which local race results became available election night. “I don’t think I’m alone in my frustration over the reporting with Nevada County,” said Town Council incumbent candidate Josh Susman Tuesday evening. But Smith said they could only go so fast in posting results. “Geography is a challenge for the whole county ” we can’t get results out until we get results in,” Smith said. Voter turnout Nevada County Acting Assistant Clerk Recorder Gail Smith said early figures indicate about a 80 percent voter turnout in Nevada County. Placer County Clerk Recorder Jim McCauley said he expects 82 to 83 percent voter turnout in his county when all is said and done. “It’s high, Placer County has a all-time high of 84 percent, but usually it’s 74 to 45 percent,” McCauley said. “We always have a good turnout here, people take voting very seriously.”

Truckee fighting for college campus

TRUCKEE – Sierra College officials might have a Plan B to build a permanent campus here. Two months after the junior college system’s Measure E failed with voters, the college’s board of trustees wants to place a local special facilities improvement district on the November ballot. In the March primary, a majority of voters in the college district’s four-county area rejected Measure E, a $394 million bond proposed to fund construction projects on the system’s five campuses. In Nevada County, however, 55 percent of the people who voted backed the bond, which would have garnered $19 million for a Truckee campus. “We have (voter) support here for what we are trying to accomplish in Truckee with a campus at McIver Hill,” said trustee Dave Ferrari, who represents Area 2, which coincides with the boundaries of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. The college extended its escrow through the end of the year on the 76-acre McIver Hill site, which is located south of Interstate 80 and east of state Route 89 south. College officials have had their eyes on a McIver Hill campus since 2001, when Truckee courses were still held at Tahoe Truckee High School. The college’s vision for McIver Hill includes a 35,000-square-foot, 10-classroom facility with a library and student dorms. If the land sale goes through, Ferrari said the trustees will look into forging partnerships with local agencies for shared use of the facilities. For now, Truckee’s Sierra College campus will continue to operate out of leased space in the Pioneer Commerce Center. Most of those students aren’t considered full time. Each year there are approximately 150 full-time equivalent students at the Truckee campus. College officials estimate a campus on McIver Hill could serve 500 full-time equivalent students per semester.

Voters small in numbers, big in opinion

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – South Lake Tahoe voters went to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on three local board races and a measure that would temporarily use bike trail maintenance funds to repair Little League fields. Early results for El Dorado County reflected an 18 percent voter turnout, compared 30 percent in the 2007 special election, according to county recorder-clerk William Schultz. “It’s a little low,” Schultz said. On election day, Schultz said the South Lake Tahoe elections office had a steady flow of voters requesting a new ballot after losing or damaging their mail-in ballot. Because voter turnout was expected to be around 25 percent, only four polling places were open and 10,000 registered voters received the mail-in ballots. Sally Proctor of South Lake Tahoe voted at the Lake Tahoe Community College Tuesday night since she forgot to mail in her ballot. Proctor said she voted for the incumbents for the LTCC and the South Tahoe Public Utility District boards. “I’m just glad to vote,” Proctor said. Carry Loomis of South Lake Tahoe said there wasn’t a particular issue that drew her to the polls, but that voting is an important part of her civic duty. “I’ve voted in every election since I was 18,” Loomis said. For other voters, it was important to show local support. “Well, to support the candidates is the big thing,” said Bob Rossi of South Lake Tahoe, who cast his ballot at the Lake Tahoe Airport. “I think it’s important to vote.” Rossi said he was also in favor of Measure B. “I think it’s important for the kids,” he said. “I think it’s something that needs to be fixed.” Measure B sets out to amend Measure S, a property tax approved by voters in 2000 to fund an ice arena, athletic fields and Tahoe Paradise Park facilities. The special tax – $18 per year for single-family homes – also generates $125,000 per year to maintain 25 miles of bicycle trails to be built after the measure passed. But only 7.7 miles of trail have been built since September of 2000, which leaves $86,000 in trail maintenance money unused each year. About $250,000 has already accumulated, and if Measure B passes, the funds will be used to repair Little League fields on Rufus Allen Boulevard at Lyons Avenue. The measure was placed on the ballot by the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Facilities Joint Powers Authority, composed of representatives from the city, El Dorado County and the Tahoe Paradise Resort Improvement District, and formed to oversee spending of Measure S funds. Michael Clark of Meyers, who voted at the airport, said he was in favor of Measure B. “In my opinion, we should spend some money and make something in our community now,” he said. Clark wasn’t bothered that local races dominated the ballot. He said the local focus increased the need to head to the polls. “If you have an opinion, you should voice it,” Clark said. Mike Domas of Meyers, who also voted at the airport, opposed Measure B. He said the cycling community should have been more involved in drafting of the measure. “Keep the money where it belongs,” Domas said. For the Lake Tahoe Community College Board, incumbents Roberta Mason, Molly Blann and board president Kerry David challenged former LTCC business instructor Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton. Voter Debbie Wilson said she felt strong about the college board race because of cutbacks due to the weakened economy. “I felt it was important to read about each candidate and see what direction they would go,” Wilson said, adding that she voted for Mason, who has been on the board since the college opened in the 1970s. For the school district, incumbent and board president Wendy David and incumbent Duane Wallace faced challenger Judy Cefalu. The South Tahoe Public Utility District race had the largest field of candidates, with 10 players vying for three open seats. An additional candidate, Jim Martin, announced he was dropping out of the race on Oct. 16, citing health and personal issues. Still, his name remained on the ballot. Seat 1 candidates included incumbent Ernie Claudio and challengers John Adamski and Chris Cefalu. Seat 2 candidates were incumbent Jim Jones and challengers Ken Curtzwiler, Tod Williamson and John Runnels. For seat 5, Scott Swift and Peggy Cocores challenged incumbent Eric Schafer.

Voters to decide on Measure S changes

On Friday, the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Facilities Joint Powers Authority approved a measure for November’s ballot that would relocate funds from Measure S to reconfigure the Little League fields on Rufus Allen Boulevard. Voters approved Measure S in 2000, which granted funds for recreation facilities. South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Bill Crawford, who is a member of the joint powers board, said Friday’s meeting went smoothly and there were no comments from the community. The new measure passed with no objections from the board, Crawford said. He added that the authority will meet again on July 24, at 8 a.m., to finalize the ballot language. The measure must receive a two-thirds vote to pass.

Supervisors look to overturn court

The next move to keep a road initiative off the November ballot was decided Friday by El Dorado County officials. The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, with Supervisor Ray Nutting dissenting, to seek a writ from the Third District Court of Appeals to overturn a superior court decision made last week. Last Wednesday, the court denied the county’s request for a writ to stop the Builders’ Exchange’s Measure H from going to voters. Measure H seeks half of the county’s Vehicle License Fees to fund county road maintenance. The board unanimously passed Measure H onto the ballot July 25 and then filed a lawsuit against the Exchange three weeks later. The county claims the measure would tie its discretionary hands and would pull funds from the county’s emergency services. County Counsel Lou Green said he will file the writ in a couple of days, but it is not a formal appeal. “It’s sort of an expedited process to avoid the length of the appeal,” Green said. “It’s not the usual way to do an appeal.” Green said he does not know whether a panel or an actual judge will read the writ, but it might come back to the county in the form of a written response. If the writ is considered, it could be passed down for a more extensive trial proceeding, it could be denied and Measure H would stay on the ballot, or it could be approved and Measure H would be taken off the ballot. The final outcome could set a precedent. Green said in order for a precedent to be set, where a judge can cite this case when deciding on ones of a similar nature, the case would have to be published and it would have to deal with issues that pertain to all initiatives seeking county general funds. Karen Kitchens, executive director of the Builders’ Exchange, said she is dumbfounded by the lengths the board will go to stop the voters from getting what they want. “I’m really sad to hear (the board) is moving forward with this appeal,” Kitchens said. “What is it about this board that it is so hard for them to see what the public needs?” “It’s time to stop that kind of behavior with the public,” she added. “We have four supervisors telling the people of El Dorado County, ‘We don’t care what you want.’ “ Kitchens said the Exchange will continue to fight for voters’ comment on Measure H, but she said the process has been costly. “(The county) has an unlimited amount of money at its disposal for this,” Kitchens said. “We’re just a small association. It has cost us a pretty penny.”

Community center funding is debated

TRUCKEE – Plans from the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District to build a new community center are continuing to evolve. The proposed $30-million to $40-million, 80,000 square-foot community center is planned to include gymnasiums, community-use rooms, an aquatic center with lap and activity pools and a performing arts center. “The performing arts center is a hot topic,” according to Steve Randall, general manager for the district. But with an additional cost of $2 million to $3 million, unless private donors step up to the plate, the arts center option isn’t likely. “It is our feeling that there are people out there that would donate to the cause, but I think they need to see a business plan first,” said Peter Werbel, chairman of the district’s board of directors. Such a document will also be discussed at Thursday’s meeting when the board moves to approve a contract with Venue Tech Management Group to develop the written plan. Without private gifts, the district will most likely raise the needed funds by placing a bond measure on a future ballot, but even that plan is a ways off, according to Werbel. “It will go to a bond issue sooner than later, but we must weigh whether the community is willing to bite the bullet again,” Werbel said. Based on a survey conducted last January for the district by True North Research and Shilts Consultants, that bullet may be in the form of an annual parcel assessment costing about $30 per $100,000 in assessed valuation. That is the rate that 55 percent of the 795 registered voters in Truckee who responded to the survey said they would be willing to pay. Meanwhile, at press time Tuesday residents of Tahoe City were voting on Measure T, a bond that if passed will fund a proposed $22-million recreation center in that community. The cost to homeowners would be nearly $100 per year, with an annual 2 percent increase over the next 30 years to pay bond debt service. Businesses will also be taxed at varied rates. “We never surveyed the exact tax structure that is on [the] ballot,” said Sue Rae Irelan, chair of the Tahoe City Public Utility District’s parks and recreation commission. “We identified how to fairly distribute the tax burden through much public input, workshops, and presentations.” For Truckee, Randall said that plans are set to break ground on the property – located on a triangle-shaped lot between Donner Pass Road, Interstate 80, and Highway 89 north – in the spring of 2006, and for construction to begin in the spring of 2007. The district must build on the land, which was donated to it for community use by East-West Partners at the end of last year, within five years or the property will revert to town ownership. “This board is incredibly pro-active and will do whatever we can to move this project forward as quickly as possible, and we are going to get it done without it being a financial burden, ” Werbel said.

Secretive group plans ambitious California casino initiative

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A secretive group is planning a $2 million petition drive for an initiative that would break state Indian tribes’ monopoly on gambling and make California the third state to allow Nevada-style casinos. Little disclosure about the measure’s backers is required at this stage. That leaves horse tracks and card clubs, who have much to gain from the initiative, unsure whether to take it seriously. The Secretary of State’s office earlier this month authorized the group to begin collecting signatures for its 39-page proposal, called the Gaming Control Act. It would mount an end-run around years of ballot fights and state compacts that allow slots and some card games on California tribal lands. The measure would lift those restrictions for all 45 tribal casinos, 113 card clubs and all the state’s 34 horse tracks, putting anyone with a gambling license on equal footing. All forms of Las Vegas casino-type gambling — from sports wagering to blackjack, poker, roulette, craps and unlimited slots — could be offered to anyone 18 and older. Casinos could be open 24 hours a day, serve alcohol and install cash machines. “The idea just is to level the playing field and not allow unregulated, uncontrolled gaming throughout California,” said Craig Marlar, a spokesman for the initiative’s backers. New state agencies, styled after Nevada’s, would be set up to license and regulate gambling operations. The state also would require the state to treat problem gamblers. The Attorney General’s office has estimated that widespread gambling could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. With backers choosing to remain anonymous, it’s not possible to verify whether they have the millions of dollars needed to mount what is sure to be a costly ballot fight if the measure qualifies. Marlar declined to provide any details about the people behind the initiative. He said they wanted their identities kept private until the measure, a constitutional amendment, receives the more than 670,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Marlar said he is in the beginning stages of gathering signatures. The deadline is June 27 to submit the petitions to the Secretary of State’s office and qualify an initiative for the Nov. 5 ballot. Even at this early stage, the initiative has touched a nerve. The Los Angeles Times urged Californians who oppose nearly unlimited gambling to refuse to sign the petition. “Some issues don’t deserve to make it to a vote,” the Times wrote in an editorial this month. Those in the gambling industry also are watching carefully. “I think it caught everyone kind of by surprise,” said Susan James of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, which represents 76 federally recognized tribes. The association opposes the measure, which would cost the tribes their monopoly on casinos. The association argues that voters’ support of casinos did not extend beyond tribal lands. “A lot of the voters still feel this is a non-gambling state,” James said. “They want to keep it as contained as they possibly can.” Indian casinos offer slots and all table games except craps and roulette thanks to a voter initiative that passed in March 2000. Critics complain the tribes don’t have to pay taxes and have used their newfound fortunes to become some of the biggest political contributors in the state. Representatives of the card clubs and horse tracks — both of whom stand to gain from the looser requirements in the initiative — are withholding their full support until they know who’s behind it. “We would like to have parity. We would like to have a level playing field,” said Haig Kelegian, president of the Golden State Gaming Association, which represents card clubs. “The point is: Where is the money coming from?” The racing industry also would like to offer slot machines at racetracks, which has proved to be a boom to tracks in other states. But the industry is waiting to see who emerges from behind the measure, said Eric Johnson, spokesman for the California Authority of Racing Fairs. Marlar, who is speaking for the backers, is president of The De Ville Group, a Palm Springs political consulting firm. The Gaming Control Act is the firm’s first statewide initiative campaign. Marlar said he has a small, personal stake in Full House Resorts Inc., a Las-Vegas firm that tried unsuccessfully to get a casino for the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla tribe near Palm Springs. Marlar said his stake in Full House has no connection with his work on the Gaming Control Act. Even if the initiative fails to qualify for the ballot, the measure has borne out fears that it would be difficult to control the spread of gambling in California. “You put the light switch on to become a gambling state and you can’t turn it off,” said Cheryl Schmit of Stand Up for California, a gambling watchdog group. “We are a gambling state.” —— On the Net: The De Ville Group, http://www.devillegroup.com

Lodging group supports Measure C

The South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association Board of Directors on Thursday quickly threw its support behind Measure C following a brief presentation by Dave Kurtzman, the spokesman for Keep Improving District Schools, or KIDS. If approved in a special election on May 4, Measure C would allow the issuance of $17 million in bonds to upgrade facilities in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. The bond measure will also qualify the district to receive $10 million in state funds. Kurtzman noted that all the schools in the district were 26 to 52 years old. Most suffer from overcrowding. While portable classrooms have helped in-class situations, no new bathrooms have been constructed to accommodate the increased student populations and the science classrooms in the South Tahoe Middle School are seriously out of date. With the vote of support, Kurtzman reminded the board and audience that the measure requires approval by two-thirds of those casting ballots. “One-third can defeat it,” he said. Board President Pete Mac Roberts urged those present to “be heard on this issue,” taking advantage of absentee ballots if necessary. “Don’t forget about it. Midseason elections tend to have low voter turnout,” he said.

Price of wedding fees will be pondered

Discussions will continue Wednesday on a proposal to increase the wedding license fees in the Tahoe Basin during the May meeting of the Lake Tahoe Wedding & Honeymoon Association. The meeting begins at 4 p.m. at The Chart House at 392 Kingsbury Grade. Also on the agenda is a discussion on the upcoming board elections, which will take place in July. The association has proposed to increase wedding license fees in order to raise additional funds to promote weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries at Lake Tahoe. Currently, members are working to place the fee increase on the Nov. 2 ballot in El Dorado County. Currently, Attorney Dennis Crabb under contract with the association, is preparing to present the proposal to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors for their approval during a May 18 meeting at Lake Tahoe. According to Crabb, Supervisors Dave Solaro and Ray Nutting have expressed support for the measure. The association is also waiting for the county’s legal counsel to formally say the measure meets legal requirements. Ballot wording and arguments are due in August. Previously, the association’s board of directors approved funds to reimburse county expenses for the measure. If other items are on the ballot, the county election department expects costs of about $12,000 to the association or $20,000 if it is the only special measure. Should the measure pass, those costs would be paid from funds raised in the license increase. For more information on the association, contact Linda Paul at (530) 544-9990.