City to discuss marketing fee for business |

City to discuss marketing fee for business

A proposal to charge business owners a fee that could range from $30 to $3,000 a year to fund South Lake Tahoe marketing efforts will take center stage at the City Council meeting tonight.

Public comments will be taken tonight on the proposed Business Improvement District, with a decision planned for January.

If approved by the majority of business owners, businesses will be assessed a fee to pay for tourism promotion that could range from $30 to $3,000 annually, depending on gross receipts, according to a consultant’s formula. This is similar to how business license fees are set.

The formula varies depending on the type of restaurant. As one example, a restaurant reporting $500,000 in gross revenue would pay a $325 BID assessment to promote Lake Tahoe.

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A city consultant hired for $10,000 to establish the structure set the formula. Bob Rosenthaul determined that 70 percent of businesses would be paying at the low end of the scale.

But that has not stopped calls and letters to the editor in the Tahoe Daily Tribune in opposition to the assessed fee.

Businessman John Runnels said Monday his biggest gripe lies with the voting formula, in which businesses’ vote would vary based on how much they pay into the fund. Runnels called it “unequal representation” and claims beneficiary groups like the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, Lodging Association and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority that manage tourism efforts should be self-supporting.

He also took issue with some people serving on the Tourism Advisory Committee that manages the BID belonging to these groups.

The City Council selected representatives from various categories during its Sept. 7 meeting. Committee members include Casey Moss, who works for Paalco; Megan Waskiewicz, who spearheads marketing for Alpen Sierra Coffee Co.; car dealer Mark Shehadi; hotelier Jerry Birdwell; Ed McCarthy, who runs the Stardust Lodge among other time share properties; chiropractor David Borges; Heavenly executive Blaise Carrig; Tribune publisher Paul Middlebrook; restaurateur Candice Williams; real estate agent Molly Blann; and John Upton, who serves as the council representative.

“No one wants to pay more taxes. There’s no such thing as an unfair tax,” Mayor Tom Davis said Monday, disagreeing with statements in Runnels’ letter.

“I disagree we don’t have to market Lake Tahoe. I’m a marketer,” he said.

Jim Converse of South Shore Transmission has a different view.

“This is not going to put one more transmission in at my shop,” he said.

If the BID is approved, Converse said he’ll move his shop to Nevada.

“They say it’s going to promote Lake Tahoe. Well, that’s wonderful. But what did they do with the last money?” he asked.

To formulate and run the BID, city management sees the local government as a conduit for the business community. It requested interested parties to address the council before the council member vote two months ago.

“People can petition the chamber, council and lodging association. This is their vehicle. The city wants this to be a business-run thing, not a city-run thing,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said Monday. “It’s a self-imposed fee. If enough people don’t agree with it, it won’t go into effect.”

Businesses have until Jan. 4 to submit written oppositions to the plan. They must be filed by 1:30 p.m. with the City Clerk’s office at 1052 Tata Lane.

Chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace said he’s heard of little protest to the idea.

“There’s no other viable plan (for marketing). For those doing well, God bless them. For those who aren’t, they really need this,” he said.

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

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