Tax to fund police, fire departments pondered |

Tax to fund police, fire departments pondered

A measure asking South Lake Tahoe voters for a tax hike to raise funds for the police and fire departments could appear on the Feb. 5 ballot under a plan the City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday.

The proposal was a late addition to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, and few details were available over the weekend.

The agenda mentions the possibility of raising the hotel/motel tax or local transaction tax “for fire protection and law enforcement purposes.”

Council member Mike Weber said Sunday that the city has been assessing the need for more police and firefighters, and particularly for more firefighters after the Angora fire.

But Weber said he’d like to see a thorough evaluation of any possible tax increases – for example, would raising the sales tax within the city hurt local sales? And Weber said he doesn’t want the conversation limited to the two taxes mentioned on the agenda.

“Basically, I think everything’s on the table,” Weber said.

Weber said he’s also hesitant to rush a tax measure onto the February ballot. Waiting until a later election would allow more time to educate voters on the measure, he said.

Although the item is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, Weber said it might be postponed until a special meeting later in the week.

The possibility of a tax increase to fund public safety comes on the heels of the City Council’s approval of two new positions each in the police and fire departments.

At an Oct. 25 meeting to approve the city’s 2007-08 budget, a police officer, police trainee, firefighter and fire inspector positions were added, Mayor Kathay Lovell said last week. The city’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

At one point, the budget called for spending $500,000 on marketing the community to stimulate tourism. However, the council approved a motion by Weber to reduce that amount by $150,000. The money freed up in that vote helped to fund the public safety positions.

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