It’s time to vacate Measure T and help recoup losses (Opinion)
I read with a combination of amusement and dismay the city’s call for Measure S asking voters to approve a tax increase to make up for the city’s expected $6 million budget shortfall. While the city would like to pretend that their projected deficit is due to COVID-19, the simple fact is that it is most likely the direct result of voter-approved Measure T, which eliminates most vacation home rentals in the city, along with the corresponding millions of dollars of transient occupancy tax and sales tax they bring in.
A typical four bedroom vacation rental in Tahoe brings in approximately $6,000 in TOT and $10,000 in sales tax revenue per year. Measure T eliminates about 1,000 of these VHRs – you do the math.
By approving Measure T based on some misleading claims and misplaced anger, the voters have brought financial calamity upon themselves and are now about to literally pay the price. Voters now have to choose between the lesser of two “evils” — Accept financial responsibility for Measure T by ponying up a new sales tax, or admit their error and reinstate homeowners’ ability to rent their homes to tourists. There is a third option of course – do neither and allow the city to descend into financial ruin.
Voters who approved Measure T seem oblivious to the fact that the only meaningful source of revenue in the Tahoe region is tourism. Geography and lack of infrastructure eliminate almost all other options. By thumbing their noses at tourists, they have pulled the rug out from under their own feet, with the entirely predictable call for increased taxes as a result.
Of course, voters were warned loudly and clearly about this outcome by the opponents of Measure T, but the proponents dismissed this inconvenient fact in a starry-eyed assumption that some other unknown economic bonanza would miraculously fall out of the sky and save the day. Obviously that hasn’t happened, nor will it.
There is one small irony in the present situation which gives the lie to the claim by city council regarding Measure S: Instead of hurting the economy, Covid has actually been a bonus. As a result of people going stir crazy, VHR rentals, and their corresponding TOT and sales tax revenue, are up about 50% over the same time last year. In a never-before-seen state of affairs, there has been no down season this fall; my home is rented every single weekend, and even mid-week, all the way through Thanksgiving and even through New Years, unfortunately, Measure T will take effect just in time to snuff out this revenue windfall.
If voters don’t want to bear the financial burden of the looming deficit by approving Measure S, they need to immediately vacate Measure T, so that vacation rentals and their related sorely needed income can continue unabated. To paraphrase a well worn expression, you can’t not have your cake but still eat it.
Jonathan Miller is a part-time South Lake Tahoe resident and second homeowner who rents his home outside of the tourist core when he’s not in town.
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