South Lake Tahoe eyes 1% sales tax hike, voters will decide |

South Lake Tahoe eyes 1% sales tax hike, voters will decide

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday got the ball rolling on a ballot measure that will increase sales tax.

City staff along with Mayor Jason Collin and Councilmember Devin Middlebrook surveyed community members and said they found many people would support a 1% tax raise to go towards public safety and maintenance.

The city’s current sales tax is 7.75% and that is less than most resort communities in the state most of which fall in the 8-10% range.

City Manager Joe Irvin said as part of the ballot initiative, he’d like the finance team to report back on how much money was raised each year from the tax increase, and where that money was spent.

Much of the discussion centered around whether or not there should be a sunset clause included, a specific date when the measure would end.

Mayor Pro Tem Tamara Wallace and Councilmember Brooke Laine were in favor of a sunset although staff discouraged it because members of the public hadn’t been polled on the question.

Middlebrook and Wallace went head-to-head on the issue. Middlebrook wanted the council to put trust in the work he and the committee had done. Wallace said she felt bullied by Middlebrook and although she was in favor of putting this tax to the voters, she would vote no because he had not given them enough of a chance to discuss the sunset.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to move forward with the ballot measure without the sunset clause, with Wallace hesitantly voting yes.

Grand Jury report

The council discussed a Grand Jury report from El Dorado County that stated the South Lake Tahoe Police Department facilities needed to be replaced or renovated and the department needed more crisis intervention training.

The council had already approved a budget for facilities renovations prior to receiving this report.

As for crisis intervention training, Lt. David Stevenson said 10 of the 39 sworn officers were not up-to-date on CIT but they had planned to have them trained prior to COVID-19. However, the training was canceled due to the pandemic and the training had been rescheduled.

Part of the discussion was an extension of El Dorado County’s PERT program into the city. The program sends a mental health professional with an armed officer to respond to mental health crisis situations.

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement in South Lake have repeatedly asked for an unarmed mental health response team like the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets program in Eugene, Ore. Many of them spoke again during the public comment period about their desires, and say PERT is not what the community has asked for because of the armed officer being a part of the team.

Irvin said he’s researching a CAHOOTS-like program for South Lake and Stevenson said he’d be open to considering a similar program.

The council voted to approve the response to the report in regards to facility renovations and CIT.

In other news:

Council voted to cancel all city events through Sept. 22 unless the state and county change their policy in the meantime.

Council discussed business license fees. In a past meeting, the council approved fee deferrals so that fees would be considered late on Oct. 1 rather than Aug. 1. The council will not be extending the deferral date but late fees have been waived for non-essential businesses that were impacted by COVID-19.

Finally, the council approved a contract with Design Workshop for architectural and planning services for the 56-acre project.

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