Council to approve city budget today |

Council to approve city budget today

Elaine Goodman

The South Lake Tahoe City Council is expected to approve today a $33.2 million general-fund budget for the new fiscal year, and at least one official is praising the city’s fiscally conservative policies.

The general-fund budget will be balanced with $1.8 million from reserve funds – but that will still leave the city with enough reserves to keep running for 90 days in the event of an emergency that stops revenue from flowing in.

The “operating reserve” called for by city policy is one-quarter of the general-fund budget, which works out to $8.3 million for the new fiscal year that started Oct. 1.

The budget is about 1.5 percent smaller than the general-fund budget for fiscal year 2007-08.

Last year’s budget was adjusted midyear, adding belt-tightening measures including freezing some open positions, said South Lake Tahoe City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell.

“Looking at the budget, we’re proud of it,” Lovell said, commending the city for being “extremely conservative” with its finances.

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That is in contrast to other California cities that saw a boom in residential and commercial growth during the past decade but now are struggling with recent steep drops in property and sales tax, City Manager David Jinkens said in a report to the council.

Jinkens described South Lake Tahoe’s general-fund revenues as “flat” over the past two years.

Of total general-fund revenue, 22 percent comes from property tax, 18 percent comes from hotel/motel tax (transient occupancy tax or TOT) and 13 percent comes from sales tax.

On the expense side, 41 percent of general-fund spending goes for public safety: 25 percent to police and 16 percent to the fire department.

The $1.8 million in reserve funds will be used for one-time expenses, including the street rehabilitation and overlay project, and the government center project.

The city also plans to add a new position: a sustainability coordinator at a cost of $108,000. The coordinator will pursue sustainability programs in the city and help implement them. The position will be funded through redevelopment money.

Although some revenues were flat, the state is taking away $427,000 from the redevelopment agency through recently passed legislation. Across California, the state is taking $350 million from redevelopment agencies, an action the California Redevelopment Association might challenge in court.

City officials also are worried about the potential loss of so-called 911 fees – charges added to telephone bills that bring in $540,000 to fund the emergency dispatch center.

In a case involving Union City, the court ruled that a similar fee was a tax that needed voter approval. Jinkens has proposed going to voters next year to approve the charge.

The council’s vote today follows two budget workshops held in September and a public “outreach” session on the budget in August.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. in council chambers at the Lake Tahoe Airport. For more information, see