City scraping bottom of barrel |

City scraping bottom of barrel

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Cloudy skies loom over California, and within them, South Lake Tahoe.

That’s the aptly-named subject of a videotape to be aired in Council Chambers during the 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday at 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

It was made by the League of California Cities in response to the state’s $36 billion budget crisis.

In trying to head off the seemingly dire circumstances, the council will receive a midyear report from Finance Director Bruce Budman on the state of the city’s 2002-03 budget.

The blueprint is a part of the long-term planning that enables the city to map out its upcoming fiscal-year budget that starts Oct. 1.

The city faces financial challenges including the loss of money due from the state and rising health-care costs that increased 22 percent last year. These expenses should dent the local budget even more.

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For the unexpected in probable mechanical problems, Fire Chief Mike Chandler has identified a need to replace one of his department’s engines. The unit can run about $850,000.

“We are facing this challenge while our reserves are below where they should be,” Budman wrote in the staff report.

The balance sheet shows general fund revenue — which encompasses transient occupancy tax and business license fees among others –as well short of a level adequate to meet budget needs. Revenues in the current year through March 31 were projected at $22.7 million, while the actual amount that came in was $9.8 million. That’s 43.4 percent collected at mid-year.

The percentage drops lower for special revenues, consisting of miscellaneous collections from gasoline tax funds to building permit fees. This money was budgeted at $10.8 million, but Budman has indicated the reality is $3.4 million.

To add to the problems, the City Council is owed $90,000 in delinquencies from more than 350 businesses in town that have reportedly failed to pay their license fees.

Prior to Measure Z’s going into effect, the city anticipated about $527,000 in business license fees. Measure Z — which passed last November — was intended to pad the city’s general fund. This source of revenue pays for police officers, firefighters and other city services.

In attempting to collect more revenue, the council will also hear an update on the city’s vacation home rental ordinance that beefs up the tracking and enforcement of establishments in town. The code went into effect Feb. 21.

Applications for registering with the city total 386, a report from permit technician Karen Kuentz indicated. At $75 per rental, the city has taken in $28,350 — with eight applicants left pending.

The city has received four validated complaints, two for noise violations and two for trash.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at