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Measure S funds to undergo audit

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Three-year-old Johnny Chatham takes a ride Sunday at Tahoe Paradise Park in Meyers.
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More than five years after its passage, Measure S brought the South Shore community a ballfield, bike trail links, an ice rink, playground equipment – and now an audit from El Dorado County.

District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago recently ordered the audit to determine how the $6.5 million voter-approved special tax has been used to enhance recreation in her district. The county shares a joint powers agreement with South Lake Tahoe and a special district formed at Tahoe Paradise Park in Meyers.

Property owners within 50,000 parcels in the district pay $18 annually in fees. The county collects $600,000 a year.



“I had a concern from a constituent. We’re trying to find out where the money is going,” said Santiago, who plans to attend her first JPA meeting in July. The JPA last met in July.

The sessions are scheduled once a year or on an “as needed” basis and include city representative Hal Cole, Paradise Park board member Michael Clark and assistant to the county supervisor, Judi Harkins. She had stepped in as former Supervisor Dave Solaro. City Councilman John Upton works as a JPA staff person when he helped to spearhead the effort that South Shore attorney Dennis Crabb had crafted for the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. Since the formation, Upton has been paid $17,610, an income claimed when he ran for City Council in 2002. The state requires reporting the income.



County Auditor Joe Harn gathered fiscal records and requested the board minutes from Upton in order to cross reference the reports. Upton obliged and added the JPA had agreed in 2001 to conduct an audit “when the bond proceeds were spent.” That time has come.

It didn’t take long for questions to come from former City Councilman Bill Crawford, a vocal opponent of Measure S, which squeaked by in September 2000 with a two-thirds vote among 13,000 citizens.

Before taking his inquiries to the county, Crawford wrote to City Finance Director Christine Vuletich seeking the records. Vuletich responded in a letter the Tahoe Daily Tribune obtained indicating “the JPA has not filed any financial records with the city.” As it turns out, Union Bank has provided financial reports to the city clerk’s office.

Although Upton said he finds no issue with the current procedures, Harn lamented over the lack of communication and accountability toward city constituents.

“If Joe feels we should be more on top of specific details then he’s entitled to feel that way. The information is readily available,” Upton said.

Harn explained: “The bottom line is, the city and county need to set up controls if I die or Judi Harkins dies so when citizens ask about Measure S they can get the information. That’s where the city and county dropped the ball.”

Santiago said she would reserve judgment until after the audit. Harn is also reviewing whether bond proceeds should be spent on administrative fees.

South Lake Tahoe Recreation Facilities (Measure S)

Preliminary Fiscal report (July 1, 2000-March 31, 2006, bond closing date)

Revenue:

Special taxes, bond proceeds and interest: $8.7 million

Disbursements:

— Arbitrage services (Bond Logistix): $4,550

— Special tax services (Larry Klaus, tax consultant): $4,922

— Trustee fees (Union Bank): $7,844

— County tax collection fees: $28,315

— JPA administrative fees (John Upton, working as an independent consultant): $17,610

— Cost of bond issuance: $166,597

Construction:

— Ice arena and support facilities: $4.3 million

— Athletic field and support facilities: $1.2 million with 500-foot bike trail link

— Tahoe Paradise Park recreation facilities (playground equipment, etc.): $229,631

Operations and maintenance:

— Tahoe Paradise (Park) Resort Improvement District: $249,880

— City athletic field maintenance: $50,000

— City bike trail maintenance: $38,000

— County transportation engineering bike trail maintenance: $48,000

— Vehicle turning- lane reimbursement to STPUD: $36,110

Debt service:

— Principal: $575,000

— Interest: $1.3 million

Source: El Dorado County Auditors’ Office


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