Editorial: Tax money goes to tourism as Douglas faces budget crunch | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Tax money goes to tourism as Douglas faces budget crunch

Kahle Community Center should survive looming Douglas County budget cuts, but it won’t escape the process without scars.

County Recreation Superintendent Brian Fitzgerald predicts the popular facility on Kahle Drive in Stateline may be forced to reduce hours, offer fewer programs or raise user fees.

That may not please the center’s approximately 1,000 monthly or annual pass holders, but the interim remedies could keep the center from shutting its doors.

“I wouldn’t see closing the place down,” Fitzgerald said Monday.

Faced with dwindling revenue from sales tax and hotel-room tax, the department is looking to trim about 8 percent from its budget. The recreation division’s budget is about $2.2 million, and of that, Kahle’s operating budget is about $747,000.

In addition to the proposed cuts, special events such as the annual Easter egg hunt could be curtailed, although this year’s Tot Egg Hunt is not threatened. Vacant positions within the department also are being kept open.

Budget woes stemming from Douglas County’s room-tax fund aren’t new.

The county’s Parks and Recreation Department received 80 percent of the room-tax revenues until Nevada Assembly Bill 616 passed in 1996. The bill siphoned off a portion of those revenues for tourism-promoting organizations such as the Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley visitors authorities.

The legislation mandated that county funding incrementally increase each year for advertising, publicizing and promoting tourism and recreation. Per AB 616, the funding level reached 65 percent of room-tax revenues in 2007.

The remaining 35 percent amounts to about $2 million, split between parks, recreation, libraries and senior services, said Douglas County Parks and Recreation Director Scott Morgan.

Kahle’s not the only Douglas County entity potentially on the chopping block. Libraries and senior facilities also face budget crunches.

Library Director Linda Deacy said the Library Board probably will have to cut expenses at least another $50,000 to $60,000 this year, primarily in salaries. She added that hours also may be cut at the branches in Tahoe and Carson Valley.

Budget cuts being considered would take effect in the new fiscal year, starting July 1.

Libraries and community centers often comprise the heart and soul of a community. They should be among the last entities to be compromised. Douglas County commissioners should keep this in mind as they hold budget workshops this month and direct county staff on how to proceed.

They also should seriously question how their county’s funding is allocated. When the majority of money is earmarked for tourism at the expense of popular and fundamental public services, something’s gone haywire.

On the heels of the latest budget shortfall, maybe it’s time the Nevada Assembly revisited AB 616. The bill’s room-tax equation needs a second look.

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