Chamber Corner: Tahoe Chamber endorses proposed sales tax in South Lake Tahoe
The Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted to endorse Measure C, the city of South Lake Tahoe’s proposed ½ percent sales tax increase dedicated to fund roadway improvements and maintenance.
The unanimous decision came during the board’s July 20 meeting, following more than a month of studying the issue and surveying chamber members. The organization’s Government Affairs Committee assisted with the research. The following factors were considered:
Chamber members indicated support for the sales tax measure by a margin of 2 to 1.
The Chamber’s adopted vision and principles include a commitment to “physical infrastructure that supports business and community.”
Many roads were never constructed properly to begin with. This makes them more susceptible to failure. A consistent source of funds and annual approach to repairs, maintenance and improvements is required. Improving roadway infrastructure also provides environmental benefits, helping to better manage drainage and reduce sediment that negatively impacts Tahoe’s water clarity.
Overall, the existing city roadway network has an average score of 49 under the city’s Pavement Management Program (PMP) rating system. That puts the network in the “poor condition” classification.
Currently, the city has no stable, dedicated source of funding for road repairs and improvements. The discretionary general fund is a source of some road repair funding, but the amount available fluctuates significantly year-to-year and is not adequate to address the needs identified by the PMP rating system.
The City Council has adopted an expenditure plan to guide the investment of dedicated revenues generated by the proposed sales tax increase, estimated to be approximately $2.5 million per year. The city Public Works Department has affirmed its commitment to leveraging existing gas tax allocations, utility fees, any grants secured and other applicable sources of funding to reach its goal of spending $3 million per year on the roads improvement and maintenance program.
The council has already voted to establish a volunteer Citizens’ Oversight Committee. The committee and annual independent audits will ensure that funds are spent as required by law — for roadway construction, repairs and maintenance only.
The council has said they will establish a Roads Management Authority (RMA) to manage all projects funded by Measure C. They have also said this will not be council members acting under a separate authority. Tahoe Chamber has urged the council to further define the RMA as soon as possible.
The sales tax increase will sunset in 15 years so voters can fully assess the accomplishments of the roads program before deciding if the revenue specific to roads should be continued.
By law, the new dedicated funding cannot be taken away by the state or used for other purposes by the city, now or in the future.
As part of its engagement on Measure C, Tahoe Chamber expressed to city leaders its concern about the cumulative tax burden being paid by businesses and residents. To be fair, this is not just a city issue. Government and special districts at all levels must be concerned about the cumulative effect of taxes and fees on those they are responsible to serve.
Having said that, as a business organization, Tahoe Chamber understands that if well-planned and accountable infrastructure investments are not made now, the cost of making them will only increase and the current deterioration we experience every day will continue.
Steve Teshara serves as CEO of the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber).