Room Tax budget is balanced |

Room Tax budget is balanced

Jenifer Ragland

Douglas County Commissioners Wednesday approved a tentative balanced budget for the county’s Room Tax Fund, which includes about a 5 percent increase in money dedicated to the promotion of tourism and about $250,000 in cuts to the Parks and Recreation Departments.

“We were given the direction of a new way of doing business, and we are embracing that seriously,” Scott Morgan, community services director, told the board. “We are attempting to retain a high service level while at the same time reducing our dependence on public funds.”

A portion of the department cuts were a result of the additional money allocated to tourism promotion. Morgan said cuts were also necessary due to inflation and increased costs.

“We are looking at this not at the end, but the beginning,” he said. “Many of these cuts are very healthy to our organization.”

The bulk of the cuts are in personnel – one full-time park ranger supervisor and nine part-time and seasonal employees – for a total savings of $105,415.

Other savings were made in the form of reduced overtime expenses ($5,000), reduced services and supplies ($124,500), reduced capital equipment ($16,000) and anticipated revenue increases ($14,700).

Morgan said the cuts will be felt most in infrastructure maintenance, supervision and administrative oversight.

He and his staff were commended by the commissioners and County Manager Dan Holler, for their achievement in balancing the budget without severely impacting line-level public services.

“I am flabbergasted by the amount of progress that has been made,” said Jacques Etchegoyhen, board chairman.

Commissioner Steve Weissinger said he was also impressed to see the budget balanced without having to make any of the cuts that people feared would come as a result in the extra $200,000 allocated to tourism promotion – 92 percent of which will go to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Steve Teshara, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance and member of the Tahoe Citizens Committee executive board, publicly thanked staff and commissioners for their efforts.

“We appreciate your courage and leadership,” he told the board. “These changes were not easy, but necessary. Hopefully it will set a foundation for future movement in subsequent budget years.”

Teshara also assured county leaders that the $200,000 would be scrutinized, to ensure it is spent in such a way as to maximize the benefit of the additional revenue.

The Room Tax generates about $5.1 million for the county. In the budget tentatively approved Wednesday, $2.1 million – more than 40 percent – will be used to promote tourism at the lake and in the Carson Valley.

Commissioner Don Miner said he is happy to see the county moving in the right direction with the way it spends room tax revenues.

“These cuts may hurt the programs for a while, but they will bring the county into this century,” he said.

Douglas County, unlike many other tourism-dependent counties in Nevada, uses a large portion of its Transient Occupancy Tax revenue for purposes other than tourism promotion an recreation.

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