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LTVA directors grapple in funding darkness

by Sally J. Taylor

Grappling with funding and direction during a half-day planning retreat, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Board of Directors on Wednesday concluded the five-hour meeting with one big question mark.

With dollar commitments uncertain from the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and the city of South Lake Tahoe, the board found itself groping in the dark.

What it does know is that less money will be available to budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1 than what – thanks to several one-time funding sources – has been available for programs in the current year.

Assuming the bistate organization will have an amount similar to the original 1997-98 budget – $2.7 million before all the windfalls – the board must cut $400,000 in programs before a 1998-99 budget can be passed.

“If we don’t cut programs, it will have to come from media advertising,” said LTVA Director Terry LeBan.

Even the usual dollar allotments are not certain. The city will not know what its budget will look like until California officials balance the state budget, which is now past due. And the TDVA is waiting to hear how much it will receive from Douglas County, which already committed funding to the LTVA.

“We’re still working with Douglas County on how funding is going to flow,” said Skip Sayre, a member of the board of directors for the TDVA, which just came into existence a year ago. Because room taxes have been below projections, “we want to err on the conservative side.”

Much of the discussions centered on what could be cut based on a list of suggestions from LeBan. Items listed because they were based on one-time funding sources included elimination of a program with Development Associates for Lake Tahoe promotions in Europe that required a three-year commitment.

Without long-term direction, which the board considered nebulous without long-term funding assurances, even the criteria to determine programs cuts was beyond reach.

There is still time.

The fiscal year for the TDVA and county both begin July 1. A clearer picture is expected by mid-July.

The board directed the issue of budget cuts back to the marketing committee, which will meet after the county and TDVA but before the next LTVA board meeting.

One thing the board did decide on was not to defer funding until next year for a vacation-planning guide for insertion in California newspapers in August. Designed to promote the inaugural Labor Day event, the board directed the staff not to publish the guide if funds could not be carved out of funding sources this year.

“How are we going to fund a $50,000 insert in a budget that’s clearly not going to carry it,” said LTVA board member John Wagnon.

There is hope. According to LeBan, some programs could end up under budget and additional funds could be coming that are not in the budget.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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