Council discusses becoming charter city; hears community health needs assessment

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe City Council covered a wide variety of topics during its Tuesday meeting, including becoming a charter city.

South Lake Tahoe is a general law city and becoming a charter city would give the city a few extra benefits.

According to the League of California Cities, “the benefit of becoming a charter city is that charter cities have supreme authority over ‘municipal affairs.’” In other words, a charter city’s law concerning a municipal affair will trump a state law governing the same topic.”

The biggest benefit would be the ability to collect transfer taxes. For example when Lake Tahoe Resort sold for $86 million in October 2021, if the city collected transfer tax at the California rate of .11%, it could’ve collected $94,600 on the sale.

Mayor Pro Tem Cristi Creegan is concerned this could negatively impact locals, especially since the housing market is so high.

While becoming a charter law city could give South Tahoe officials a bit more oversight, there are drawbacks. To become a charter city would be staff intensive and could take away from other projects, there could be legal challenges to the charter and changes to the charter would be made by a 50%-plus-1 citizen vote, so in a small community, changes could be made fairly regularly.

Councilmember Cody Bass sees that last part as a plus, stating that this could give voters more control.

The city is far from making a decision on this. The measure would need to be put on the ballot and Mayor Devin Middlebrook said the 2022 November election is way too close to be able to gather enough information and inform the public.

Councilmember Tamara Wallace added that just last election, the voters were asked to vote on the 1% sales tax and in 2022, they will be asked to vote on a cannabis tax. With transfer taxes being a main driver for becoming a charter city, she said it wouldn’t look great to add yet another tax question to the ballot, especially when the city doesn’t necessarily need it.

The council agreed that the first step is gathering community input, to see if there is even a desire to pursue this direction.

The council also received a 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment presentation from Barton Health. This assessment is an annual survey to determine the health status, behaviors and needs of residents in the area.

This year’s survey included new questions in two topic areas; social determinants of health such as income and housing status and adverse childhood experiences and how they can impact health later in life.

Based on the 2020 survey, this year the top three priorities for Barton were mental health, substance abuse and access to healthcare services. While Barton said they’ve made improvements in those areas, they still see room for improvement.

Part of the plan to improve access is to utilize the recently purchased Lakeside Inn space to provide more, and better, services to the community. Barton will be surveying the community to see what they’d like to see in that building.

In other news, council approved a South Tahoe Refuse interim year rate adjustment. The increase will be $1.56 per month for residential customers and $1.85 per cubic yard for commercial customers. They also approved amendments to the STR franchise agreement so that now Clean Tahoe programs and services will be overseen by STR.

Finally, the council approved a lease and concession agreement with new owners of Flight Deck Sports Bar & Grill, the restaurant in the Lake Tahoe Airport. The restaurant will be owned by John Ross, of Reno,and managed by Sheila Benson.

This was the council’s last meeting of 2021. The next meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4.

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