Another day, another tax: Snow removal fee would be 11th city hike in a year | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Another day, another tax: Snow removal fee would be 11th city hike in a year

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Kevin Bauwens, a lead mechanic with the city's public works department, inspects the ribbons and tub on a 30-year-old snowblower.
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Even though they’re aware the community feels overtaxed, city leaders laid the groundwork Tuesday for at least doubling snow removal fees on property tax bills to pay for machines deemed so antiquated even the wrecking yards have newer components for them.

In making its 5-0 decision to go forward with placing a more than $40 parcel fee before the voters Nov. 8, the South Lake Tahoe City Council heard from its staff who painted a dire picture of the shape of its fleet of blowers and graders.

When two of the city’s five blowers broke down last winter, maintenance workers were forced to find parts at a Central Valley wrecking yard. Much to their surprise, the city’s parts were older than the ones in the equipment due to be pulled apart. Sometimes parts suppliers ask staff to take pictures of the broken components because they have nothing on the shelves. Other times, city workers manufacture their own.

“We’re now in a hole,” Street Supervisor Leo Tate said.

Sixteen years ago, the $20 fee was put into place to pay for the government service by El Dorado County properties in the South Shore Snow Zone – which has 18,290 parcels. The county has approved placing the measure on the ballot in an election costing the city $20,000.

The city estimated its 11,000 parcels at $20 a year generate $217,800, which won’t even pay to replace one machine.

The proposed initiative will take a two-thirds vote to pass – a measure of success Councilman Hal Cole was concerned would die as fast as the 11- to 35-year-old machines.

The Lake Tahoe Unified School District defeat of Measure L, a school bond initiative, sticks in recent memory. And the panel is fully aware that the public is tired of tax, fee and service increases – 10 of them in the last year including last week’s water and sewer hikes, along with those in cable, electric, gas, emergency services, marketing and the retail sales taxes.

Cole suggested drafting two resolutions for the public hearing scheduled July 19 to get input from the community – one at a $40-a-year fee and another at $50, both with a consumer price index rating. The latter is the amount the county wants to request.

The city hopes to eventually replace at least five graders and three snowblowers with the money it plans to start collecting in 2007. Some of the machines are valued as high as $450,000, prices going up partly from the rising cost of steel.

Moreover, the prospect of interest rates rising have also contributed to the urgency, Councilman John Upton said.

With salaries and benefits included, the total cost of snow removal per parcel has been calculated as $90 a year, so there’s a growing feeling the city is making up for lost time.

In September 2006, the last payment of $204,917 will be made for the five graders the city bought.

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