Guest column: Vote ‘no’ on proposed South Lake Tahoe sales tax increase
After years of studying the problem, the City Council has found a solution to our failing roads: INCREASE TAXES!
The supporters of Measure C state there is an IMMEDIATE need to repair the roads due to public safety concerns. Yet the reality is that this measure contemplates taxing our community over the next 15 years; and some road work will not be performed until the year 2032! Is this the immediate relief that the supporters promise?
The fact is that the city has failed to properly prioritize road repairs, and has failed to set aside funds for road replacement over the last 30 years.
Have you read Measure C? Most of the paragraphs address the manner in which the tax will apply.
Only one short paragraph discusses the use of this tax. “Section 16. USE OF FUNDS. As a special tax measure, all proceeds of the tax levied and imposed hereunder shall be accounted for and paid into a special fund or account designated for use by the City of South Lake Tahoe, by and through the Roads Management Authority, for the repair, maintenance and construction of City streets. The Expenditure Plan is attached as Exhibit A. The Expenditure Plan may be amended from time to time by the Roads Management Authority, but all revenue expended shall be audited and reviewed by the Citizens Oversight Board.”
This provision is vague and ambiguous. The money is supposed to be used to fix roads, but the language states for the “repair, maintenance and construction of City streets” and is subject to the Expenditure Plan that can be amended from time to time. So are we going to fix the roads? Patch the pot holes? Resurface? The expenditures will be determined by the Expenditure Plan which can be amended … which means changed … which means redirected.
The Roads Management Authority is yet to be defined and is not addressed in the measure. The Expenditure Plan proposes that money for roads shall also be spent on: pothole and surface repairs; pavement dig outs and minor page; drainage repairs/replacement (directly tied to roadway); chip seals; cape seals; slurry seals; crack filling; shoulder restoration; pavement grinding; thin overlays; full depth reclamation; micro seals; ADA improvements; curb and gutter repair/installation; signal repair including loop and camera detection; paved bike trail repair and rehabilitation; paved sidewalk repair and rehabilitation; signage; guardrails and warning and safety devices; retaining walls; bridge maintenance and repair; maintenance equipment rental, lease or purchase; paving equipment rental, lease, or purchase; and striping and marking.
After the city spends this new sales tax income on these types of items, will there be any moneys left to fix the roads?
Finally, the oversight committee, whose make up is not yet defined, and as described in paragraph 18 of the measure, only has the power to review expenditures, not to stop wasteful use of tax money or misdirection of funds.
With the Expenditure Plan subject to modification, with the oversight committee having no power to check expenditures, with the Roads Management Authority not being defined and likely controlled by the council, funds from this new tax can be potentially used for any purpose. The measure fails to assure that the roads that we use to drive on with our cars will be fixed.
Vote “No” on Measure C.
Bruce Grego is a local attorney and former member of South Lake Tahoe City Council.