Letter to the editor- Here’s some city solutions
South Lake Tahoe
Our city budget crisis is very real; however, some of the solutions being discussed seem to be temporary stopgap measures that will only delay solving our overall problems.
The current dilemma is being expanded by decreased tourism due to aging strip development, increased competition from Indian gaming and most recently, a reluctance to venture far from home due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. economy is now suffering from a lack of consumer confidence.
The city is truly in a financial bind due to the aforementioned problems as well as due to the state literally stealing millions of dollars from cities and counties a few years back and then limiting their ability to raise needed funds through taxes. Some actions of past councils that provided very good retirement medical benefits are now siphoning off needed dollars for capital improvements such as road repairs and needed snow removal equipment.
Four solutions on the table so far are:
1. Reduce capital expenditures.
2. Cut more staff and benefits.
3. Enlarge current taxes.
4. Increase tax income through increased marketing.
Perhaps a combination of all four is needed in the short term, but only the fourth method has ever proven to be a long-term solution. Cutting our road repairs and additional cutting of staff when the city has already cut more than 20 positions just produces bumpy roads, unplowed streets and less service to the public. Some taxes are obviously needed in order for our government to function. But what is the best – taxing at higher rates on the business revenue stream or increasing the volume of business revenue being taxed? The first leads to a cycle of death for the businesses that support our community and the second leads to sustained prosperity for all.
The big picture thinkers are right on target. They understand that as business goes, so goes the country. President Bush and the bipartisan Congress have agreed on a tax-cutting economic stimulus package and in the aftermath of the bombings, are now considering even more stimulation for the economy. Gov. Davis, Gov. Guinn, Gov. Pataki and Mayor Giuliani are just a few of the recent champions of increasing tourism. They realize that the solution is increasing tourist promotion dollar spending, not ever-increasing taxes but taxing only at rates that will not cripple the economy further. They all understand that increasing dollars to tourism marketing now is the best option on the table.
Let’s return to our own city budget problems. Currently, we have lodging occupancies on an annual level as low as 40 percent. If we were to experience averages as high as 60 percent, our city budget problems would disappear. While it may be necessary to raise some taxes in the short term, the caution is that we are rapidly approaching the point where taxes will become another reason not to come to Tahoe. The bottom line is that in the long run, 10 percent tax on 60 percent occupancy is far better for our local economy than 12 percent of 40 percent occupancy.
The time is now for our City Council to increase promotions, advertising and marketing of our great Lake Tahoe. It is the only and best solution to our current fiscal problems and will provide our community with a sound financial future.
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