City manager sees more business in City’s future
The absence of ringing cash registers can be deafening to a city facing a continuous budget crisis.
It’s only taken South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens a little over a month to lay a canvas of change and opportunity that may start in retail.
Jinkens, who pledged to have a grand assessment of the city for the council, wants to diversify and enlarge the retail base in town as a means of spurring economic development and helping the environment in reducing emissions.
“The city of South Lake Tahoe loses thousands and thousands of dollars each year to other communities and areas in retail sales. This exodus of customers from South Lake Tahoe hurts consumers, local businesses and hurts the city’s efforts to fund municipal services needed and desired by the people by denying local taxpayers revenue from their own purchases,” Jinkens wrote in his report.
Jinkens has noticed the amount of retail sales tax in relation to the general fund to be “very low.” Seventeen percent of the general fund revenue consisted of retail sales tax last year.
The issue may be a simple matter of choice — options in the types of businesses and locations of where to build, Jinkens pointed out.
For now, the city manager of the lake’s largest city is having a report drafted that will indicate how many commercial lots are available to use for retail.
But zoning shouldn’t limit the prospects, he said.
Identifying the types of retail establishments necessary to serving the needs of 23,000 city residents would make up the first priority.
“This reliance on out-of-town retailers to provide local residents with service needs to change,” he said.
In addition, Jinkens would like to expand the city’s reach.
He believes the city should consider eventual annexation of areas located within the city’s sphere of influence, characterized as an area within El Dorado County and outside the city limits that the Local Agency Formation Commission has found as closely connected and inter-related.
The new city manager continues his outside-the-box thinking in the area of redevelopment.
“There continues to be need in the city for a newly defined redevelopment strategy,” he said, listing the upgrade to streets, improvement of drainage, development of pedestrian and bicycle pathways and creation of affordable housing as pressing issues.
He again returned to the importance of making the city more livable to the resident, in addition to the tourist.
As far as making life easier for the city employee, Jinkens advocates bringing trainers to the city as opposed to spending money sending staffers to far-flung places.
But it would certainly help the city’s budget situation to invest in another site for the council chambers, meaning a city hall. The city pays $132,000 a year for the lease.
“Leasing provides the taxpayer with nothing in the long run but more leasing costs,” he said.
Another city budget issue Jinkens intends to get a grip on is the Lake Tahoe Airport, which the city subsidizes with $600,000 per year.
Jinkens said the city plans to insist on other government entities such as El Dorado and Douglas counties stepping up to the plate to share the budget burden.
He endorses other uses for the airport, as in utilizing the site as a transportation hub for transit connections. He also likes the idea of using space there for environmental education.
Jinkens noted how challenging the issues appear, admitting solutions wouldn’t come easy.
But he remained optimistic they could be addressed.
“We have dedicated people who really want to make things successful. There’s positive energy here,” he said.
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