Study will try to find Tahoe funding sources |

Study will try to find Tahoe funding sources

An economic model expected to help Lake Tahoe officials determine how to raise the local share of the $908 million Environmental Improvement Program should be finished by the end of the year, said the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s spokeswoman.

The bistate regulatory agency last week agreed to have a Sacramento-based consultant complete Phase 2 of its regional revenue study.

“One of the key components of the Phase 2 process is an economic model,” said Pam Drum, public affairs coordinator for TRPA. “It’s not going to be particularly fancy, but it will be a basic model of the Lake Tahoe regional economy. We’ll be able to plug these various alternative funding sources into the model and see what it tells us.”

The EIP identifies capital investments that need to be made over roughly the next decade to meet the agency’s thresholds for water quality, soil conservation, air quality, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, recreation and scenery. A draft of the EIP was considered at the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, and TRPA’s governing board officially approved it in 1998.

The EIP roughly divides the price tag for implementation between federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector. While the local governments’ portion of the EIP amounts to $101 million, the regional revenue study will identify $200 million in funding. That would not only pay for the local portion but provide for long-term maintenance and operations of the EIP projects.

The regional revenue study is supposed to identify where the money can come from to fund the local responsibility. Phase 1 of the study was completed last year. It identifies about 20 potential funding sources – including taxes and user fees – as well as how much money they could raise and what kind of action would need to be taken to implement them.

Various Lake Tahoe groups – including primarily business and tourism organizations – helped TRPA narrow the 20 possibilities to about seven. They are:

– A regional gas tax in 12 Northern California and three Northern Nevada counties;

– A regional motor vehicle registration fee in the same counties;

– A basin-impact fee;

– A basin-wide sales tax increase;

– A transient occupancy tax increase;

– An entertainment tax;

– A western states gas tax.

Phase 2, with the help of the economic model, should identify what effect those increases could have on the area’s economy.

Beyond narrowing the list, Drum said, officials currently are not supporting certain alternatives over others.

She could not estimate how long it may be before any of the revenue-raising possibilities could be implemented.

“We’re going to do it right. We’re going to take whatever time is needed for us to develop credible, reliable data so that we can move forward with confidence – and community support, we hope,” she said. “The Phase 2 report is not going to make any recommendation about which funding source should be pursued. It’s going to tell us what are the specific impacts on the economy they may have. It will be up to us as a region to decide what the next step is.”

At a cost of at least $80,000, the firm of Jones and Stokes Associates Inc. will be completing Phase 2. Drum said various stakeholders in the basin are expected to help pay the consultant.

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