As Election Day nears, divided panel discusses road sales tax Measure C
It was a divided panel of speakers Wednesday evening at Tahoe Regional Young Professional’s Town Hall on a proposed sales tax increase for road repair funds.
Measure C is the only item on the ballot in this November’s special election in South Lake Tahoe. If passed, it would raise the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent. The proposed increase is a special tax, which requires 66.7 percent in favor to pass, but would keep the money from going into the general fund and not allow future councils to change where the estimated $2.5 million generated annually would be spent. City Council also voted to include a sunset clause of 15 years and create a Citizens’ Oversight Committee, made up of 7-11 community volunteers, for accountability protection.
Like other sales taxes, essential items such as groceries and medicine are exempt.
“The sales tax would mean just 50 cents for every $100 spent,” said panelist and South Lake Tahoe Mayor Pro Tem Wendy David to the audience at the Beach Retreat & Lodge on Wednesday evening. “With our tourist economy, a very large part of our sales tax would be generated by our visitors, allowing them to pay their fair share for the impact that they also have on our roads.”
Assistant public works director Jim Marino spoke on the poor conditions of the city’s roads.
“Over 62 percent of the 129 centerline miles is in a condition that will require reconstruction in the next 10 years. That’s a big amount,” said Marino.
A dedicated, annual funding source will allow the city to leverage the funds for grants, enter into long-term contracts with better rates and collaborate with utility companies when they dig up roads, he said.
Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce CEO and panelist Steve Teshara spoke to the organization’s endorsement of Measure C.
“We think it’s a good long-term investment and a good business decision,” said Teshara.
A survey of the chamber’s members found that 2:1 were in favor of the sales tax increase. The decision to back the measure was then officially made by the Board of Directors.
“We don’t falsely claim that it isn’t going to have any impact at all, but the impacts are going to overall be more positive,” added Teshara.
Steve Knight, general manager at CardinaleWay Toyota in South Lake Tahoe, disagreed.
“I’ve seen the effects of a tax increase specifically when it comes to business,” said Knight, adding that the cost will ultimately get passed onto the consumer and could impact jobs. “Isn’t there a better way to raise money? Shouldn’t we be supporting our businesses and encouraging them to grow?”
Former city councilmember, attorney and panelist Bruce Grego argued that the city has mishandled its money with frivolous spending. He maintained that the money could be found in the general fund with better management.
“There is no question our roads need to be fixed, but the question is that funding source,” said Grego. “Passage of Measure C will create a precedent that the city can come back to the taxpayers for money for other essential services.”
Kenny Curtzwiler, a contractor and owner of Tahoe Ski Bum Gear, said it was difficult to decide whether or not he supported Measure C.
“I am for what Measure C is going to accomplish; I’m against Measure C passing because if this passes, I look at this as kicking the can down the road for making the [tourists] pay their fair share for what they are using our town for,” said Curtzwiler. “I would like to see Measure C fail in this ballot. I would like to see them come back with another ordinance to tax Heavenly, tax the VHRs through [transient occupancy tax] and put it back on the ballot.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Vote-by-mail ballots were sent out by the El Dorado County Elections Department on Oct. 9. These must be mailed into the department by Nov. 7.
There are three polling places in South Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship at 3580 Blackwood Road, South Shore Christian Assembly at 886 Glorene Ave., and the Recorder Clerk’s Office at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd. #108.