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Let room tax dialogue begin

Jenifer Ragland

Douglas County and Lake Tahoe tourism industry leaders will convene this week to begin developing answers to the many questions surrounding the new game called room tax distribution.

How will money currently dedicated to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce be handled? How should the newly created Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority spend room tax dollars it receives? Once the process is established, how will Douglas County replace lost revenue to senior services, parks and recreation and libraries?

The source of the discussion is AB616, a bill spearheaded through the Legislature this year by the Tahoe Citizens Committee after its movement to secede from Douglas County failed.

The law requires a 1-percent increase in the room tax rate at lake lodging properties beginning Wednesday. The revenue generated by the increase – about $50,000 monthly – will go immediately to the TDVA. Starting in July 1999, the entity will get 50 percent of room tax dollars generated at Lake Tahoe, and over a period of several years will receive a maximum of 65 percent.

This year, 41 percent of room tax dollars generated in the county is budgeted to go to the lake, divided between the LTVA and the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce. The introduction of a new entity has the potential to disrupt that allocation, which is of some concern to those agencies’ representatives.

For Carson Valley residents, the concern is what effect any changes will have on their tax bills.

Steve Weissinger, Douglas County commissioner and member of the TDVA board, said he will be looking for input from the public at the workshop as to what direction they would like to see the county take.

“You have these levels of services that have been funded by room tax since about 1969, That will change in a couple of years, but we might as well start planning for it now,” he said. “Do you want the same level of service? If so, there will have to be a way to replace the revenue lost.”

Echoing what other commissioners have said, Weissinger stressed that AB616 puts everything on the table.

“It’s a whole new ball game,” he said. “We don’t like what the state has done to us, but this is what we have to work with. It’s not gonna be the same old story, that’s for sure.”

But Steve Teshara, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance, said he hopes to maintain the amount of funding for Lake Tahoe promotion that has been coming to Tahoe through Douglas County. What needs to be decided is whether that money goes to one or more agencies, he said.

“We also want to establish the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority as a new and vital player on the lake promotional front, and get our partnership with Douglas County in that regard off to a solid start,” Teshara said.

He said Skip Sayre, director of marketing at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and a member of the TDVA, will deliver a presentation at the workshop on what the gaming alliance sees as the function of the new agency.

Voice your views on room tax

What: Douglas County Commissioners’ workshop

Where: Carson Valley Middle School old gym/playhouse, 1477 U.S. Highway 395, Gardnerville

When: 5:30 p.m.


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