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My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)

Local Musings

City council recently held a strategic planning session and developed a list of items to guide the city for the next several years.

An exercise like his is always a good thing, and the city should be applauded for its efforts.

The problem with the city’s approach, and this goes for most municipal governments, is a misunderstanding of what strategic planning is.

The list of city projects prioritized, is just that, a list of projects. Missing is the strategy to implement the list.

That is the fundamental question council members should be asking. Where is the next $50 million in tax revenue going to come from over the next 5 to 10 years?

The reality is the city needs revenue to operate, and its primary function is to figure out where that revenue is coming from in the local economy. It has become a very challenging situation. One the one hand, city tax revenue shifted to CalPERS, the employee retirement program continues to increase unabated, and residents have shut down potential sources of revenue.

On the other hand, the community has voted against parking fees for visitors, a sales tax that would be paid primarily by visitors, and the community has voted to reduce vacation rentals and the transient occupancy tax paid by those visitors.

By my calculations, that’s about $100 million in lost tax dollars over 20 years. Most of these would have been paid for by visitors.

The point is pretty clear, the city council (and all municipal governments) should be engaged in real strategic planning. Focus on developing the strategy of more revenue (and not by ballot measure), not just a wish list of projects which, without funding, will probably not get implemented.

The city would do well to take a hard look at how the world is changing, including the most recent Coronavirus and develop at least one budget scenario that includes reducing expenses.

If the tourism economy slows and the resulting tax collection does as well, the city will have to look at cuts. It’s better to be prepared now and not when it happens.

It was interesting to see Measure B get defeated, a parcel tax with funds going to new equipment for the Lake Valley Fire Protection District. One would assume that most funding requests for first responders would be supported.

But something happened. Some suggest because there was another parcel fee for snow removal, that also did not pass, voters soured on both.

There may be something else at work, one of the points brought up in the debate was a well-reasoned letter to the editor that questioned why such a significant portion of the Lake Valley budget was going to salaries and benefits.

Those for the measure were never really able to respond effectively. More and more voters are looking at the Transparent California website and seeing what public sector employees are making and considering that information in their voting decisions.

It also begs the question of why haven’t funds been set aside for equipment replacement for the past several decades? These are questions their directors should answer.

Recommendation

Every month on the last Friday, you can find the best entertainment deal for your dollar.

Now you might think because it’s at the senior center its music that would only appeal to an older crowd. Think that if you want, but the Lake Tahoe Jazz Band puts out a couple of hours of great jazz. Check it out.

It’s a Wrap

Something is going on and it’s tough to explain. There are lots of changes happening. Maybe it’s because of an election year or a low snow year, or perhaps it’s now the coronavirus and the potential to impact the South Shore tourism industry negatively.

Change is inevitable. We have gotten so used to the best economic expansion in our lifetime, we will see if it continues.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at carl@smgonline.net.


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