Special election to determine whether South Shore voters support bond | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Special election to determine whether South Shore voters support bond

The special election on Tuesday for Measure S will determine if two-thirds of South Shore voters support a $6.5 million bond.

“It was a grassroots effort that began with 40 people in the community,” said Mayor Tom Davis

The bond would provide funding for the Recreational Master Plan created by the South Tahoe Alliance for Recreation – a group of people from governmental and environmental agencies that was formed specifically to create this plan.

The plan comprises a $3.8 million ice rink and family entertainment center; money for maintenance of bicycle trails, which would make the South Shore eligible for $12 million in grant money from the California Tahoe Conservancy for construction of a unified bicycle trail infrastructure; four new ball fields; and improvements to Tahoe Paradise Resort Improvement District, which would become a public park.

“This is a vote on raising property taxes for a very strict and specific use of the money,” said Hal Cole, a member of the Joint Powers Authority formed to carry out the plans documented in Measure S.

“I think this is the best initiative I’ve seen in my 25 years here,” Davis said.

Proposition 13, crippled the ability for local governments to raise taxes and so this method of raising taxes is a viable way to raise funds in a time when the buying power of local government budgets are dwindling.

“We don’t have enough money in our budget, so this is a way of getting things done,” said Councilwoman Judy Brown.

“The JPA is more democratic than raising taxes because of the two-thirds vote,” said Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

But not everyone agrees with Measure S.

“This thing potentially can get out of hand, and that is why I am voting no,” said Councilman Bill Crawford, the only dissenting vote on the five-member City Council.

While JPAs have been created for snow removal, vehicle abatement and other activities, Crawford criticizes the power of this JPA.

“This thing is not going to sunset for 30 years,” he said. “We are going to govern this town from the grave.”

He argues that the JPA has the ability to increase debt even further.

“It is undeniable that in the state of California JPA can issue debt,” he said.

However, other officials disagree saying that an increase in debt would require a two-thirds vote.

“I have not seen any of the JPA’s gone goofy,” Davis said.

The idea for STAR grew out of the failed 10-year project to provide recreational facilities at Golden Bear Park, located on U.S. Forest Service land. The project unraveled because the agencies involved were not able to coordinate their priorities.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe was one group, which had objections to the Golden Bear Park Project, but has helped to create this plan.

“It is a good initiative,” said Heidi Hill Drum, communications director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

The league supports the project because of the location of the ball fields, which would be on “high capability land,” and because of support for bike trails. One of the leagues goals is to encourage alternative modes of transportation.

“We feel development should happen in the urban development area on non-sensitive land,” she added.

If Measure S is approved, homeowners would pay an additional $18 on their property tax – $9 for low-income homeowners and business would pay on a variable sliding scale, which would be determined by the size and type of business.

“It is against the law to raise the tax beyond $18 dollars,” Davis said.

The public still has the right to take recourse on the authorities of the JPA, if it does not perform to expectations, he added.

Scott Slavensky business consultant and designer for what could be South Lake Tahoe’s 38,000 square-foot ice rink and family entertainment center has estimated an annual profit of $112,206. This is a figure that can only be obtained if the $300,000 a year debt service is eliminated, which would be a function of Measure S.

The project would be located at 1176 Rufus Allen Blvd., the same location as the previous rink that opened for six weeks in December of 1996, but had to be shut down because of floods in January 1997.

“When tourists come to the chamber of commerce, they don’t ask do you have an ice rink? They say where is your ice rink?” Wallace said.

If Measure S passes, it would provide South Shore with 30 years of maintenance money for bicycle trails – $5,000 per mile for up to 25 miles of bicycle trails a year. These maintenance dollars would meet grant requirements by the Conservancy, which would open the door for construction of $12 million worth of trails.

“It is such a huge leverage of funds,” Cole said.

If Measure S passes, in exchange for publicly sharing its tennis courts, basketball court, playground equipment, picnic area, man-made lake, ball field, wading pool, and quirky shaped recreational building, used for weddings and other social occasions, Tahoe Paradise would get an initial $200,000 for capital improvements and would receive an additional $50,000 annually to provide for maintenance costs.

“Tahoe Paradise Park is a diamond in the rough,” Davis said.

If Measure S, passes there would be $1.3 million for four proposed ball fields with lights, a 160 car parking lot and restrooms. It would also include an additional $50,000 a year for maintenance of all the amenities in the complex.

“I would have given my eye teeth for more ball fields when my kids were young,” Brown said.

Measure S would also fund two soccer fields that would be 390 feet by 220 feet, a baseball field with a 400-foot center field, and a smaller warm-up field. In addition, The South Tahoe Public Utilities has approved funding for a utility road that would make for easy access to the proposed ball fields, said Duane Wallace, boardmember

If Measure S passes, the $6.5 million fixed rate bond would most likely be purchased in February, said John Upton, member of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

Interest rates are at a low point, Upton said. In the last 20 years, interest rates have been as high as 12 percent and as low as 5 1/4 percent.

“What we will probably do is get a six percent interest rate on these bonds, which is near-record low,” Upton said.

After 30 years, the total cost of the $6.5 million bond to South Shore voters is estimated to be about $18 million.

The tax levied by Measure S would generate a total of $600,000 a year to

pay off the fixed rate loan on the bond and sustain project maintenance costs.

There are 14,264 eligible voters in this election. Voters can cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

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