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SLT council to review budget; City manager looks for balance

The City of South Lake Tahoe faces the challenge of hammering out the 2000-2001 budget, beginning with a workshop at 10 a.m. today at City Council Chambers.

A major dilemma is that many of the city’s revenue sources have not kept pace with increased inflation, which is estimated to be about 3 percent a year. In fact, many revenue sources come from flat fees, which have not increased since their inception.

However, California state laws limit the city’s ability to increase revenues without a vote from the public.



“We’re definitely at some crossroads,” said Mayor Tom Davis. “We’re not seeing the benefit of the economic boom because we’re 100 percent dependent on tourism.”

According to the preliminary budget report prepared by City Manager David Childs, there are key issues such as delayed maintenance and underfunding of capital improvements that, if put off, could cost the city much more in the long run.




After major state cutbacks in 1997, the city is providing the same amount of services it did in 1996 with less resources, said councilwoman Brooke Laine. She added, as requests from various city departments come in for increased staffing, the question remains, where is the money going to come from?

According to the city managers’ report, while many of these staffing requests are conservative, it is unlikely that many of them will be accommodated in the coming budget.

“We’re running about as lean and mean as we can get,” the mayor said.

Childs has proposed in his budget summary that the 2000-2001 budget can be balanced with “one-time dollars,” such as reserves and transfers.

“I have concerns about balancing the budget with one-time dollars,” Laine said. Although she said she is anxious to hear what the staff and city manager have to say.

Councilwoman Judy Brown has particular concerns about credits from the California Public Employee Retirement System. Cal-PERS officials have told cities statewide that they would not have to make as high a contribution to public employee retirements as in previous years.

“I think it would be a huge mistake to count on them,” she said.

She is also concerned about funding Capital Improvement Projects, some of which she said will need to be delayed.

“It’s going to be an interesting meeting,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to it. It should be a lively discussion.”

Two of the city’s primary sources for revenue are transient occupancy tax and sales tax, both of which are inherently inconsistent and have not been strong enough to offset the shortages that inflation in other areas has caused over the years.

TOT funds are in part used to help support the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Chamber of Commerce, a cost Councilman Bill Crawford thinks should be reduced.

“For years, I have favored reducing the gratuity to the LTVA and the Chamber of Commerce,” he said. Crawford also cites redevelopment as a major drain on the city’s general fund.

“If we’re going to balance the budget everyone is going to have to suffer a little bit,” Crawford said. “It’s going to be painful.”

While the city manager and staff make suggestions, the decisions made on the budget are ultimately in the hands of City Council. Many of the budget problems facing the council included over-estimating projected revenue, according to the report and Davis agrees.

“Some of those decisions in the past have come to roost,” Davis said.

No action will be taken at this budget workshop. Budget hearings will be Sept. 12.

Breakout

What: City Council Budget Workshop

When: Today at 10 a.m.

Where: City Council Chambers 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.


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