City facing possibility of $2 million shortfall |

City facing possibility of $2 million shortfall

Susan Wood

The South Lake Tahoe City Council passed its 2001-02 budget Tuesday night, with an anticipated $2 million shortfall based on an approved fee schedule and projected revenues.

The vote was 4-0, with Councilman Bill Crawford abstaining.

Before passing the $21 million financial blueprint for the city, the majority of council members one-by-one expressed frustration over the shortfall and the subsequent hard choices it will face to make the numbers crunch.

The budget period started Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2002.

Councilwoman Brooke Laine said she objects to subsidizing the Lake Tahoe Airport when the city faces this significant amount of red ink.

Mayor Hal Cole shared a similar sentiment over subsidizing an airport that has no commercial air service flying in and out of it. But Cole believes the city should give the Airport Commission’s proposed strategic plan to boost revenue at the airport a chance while the Federal Aviation Administration certification remains in effect.

Councilman Tom Davis said he’s frustrated with budget cuts that appear to plague the city every year.

Councilwoman Judy Brown voiced concerns over the city’s recommendation to raise the transient occupancy tax by 2 percent to 12 percent for non-redevelopment properties as suggested. She asked if the tourists would still come to Lake Tahoe to patronize the area with a higher motel tax given the uncertainty of the tourism climate in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

“This budget is based on projected revenues. I’m hoping (the visitors) will be there,” Brown said.

The panel decided to reconvene by next month to review ways to close the gap between expenditures and revenue.

“The longer we put it off, the bigger the problem gets,” City Manager Dave Childs said.

Meanwhile, a budget task force is expected to meet to hash out the suggestions deemed necessary to get the city in the black once and for all.

Serving on that committee, South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Charlie McDermid is proposing splitting that TOT hike in half to 1 percent.

The Lodging Association hasn’t voted on the proposal.

Another suggestion to increase revenue involves raising the $20 parcel fee passed in 1989 for snow equipment.

The city plans to hire a few more people, including an administrative secretary and a manager for its proposed ice rink under construction.

Other anticipated expenses include dated equipment like the city’s two snowblowers, which add up to 55 years in service. They cost an estimated $320,000 to replace.

The council also heard a recommendation from city staff to rezone a 3-acre area of Gardner Mountain at 714 and 750 Emerald Bay Road to accommodate an 18,000-square-foot multifamily housing complex for the disabled. No decision was reached as of press time.

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