Wedding fee increase makes way toward November ballot |

Wedding fee increase makes way toward November ballot

by Sally J. Taylor

For the second time in its existence, the Lake Tahoe Wedding & Honeymoon Association on Wednesday faced the edge of a political campaign. This time they jumped in.

The campaign to raise wedding license fees, beginning in El Dorado County, officially began Wednesday. The association board of directors approved a $2,200 contract with Attorney Dennis Crabb of Rollston, Henderson, Rasmussen & Crabb to work with county officials to develop a ballot measure for the November election.

Currently, the wedding license fee in the county is $50. The association would like to initially raise the fee in the Tahoe Basin portion of the county by $9 with a gradual increase totaling $12.

The additional funds would be used to promote the South Shore wedding industry. According to a 1995 study by the Strategic Marketing Group, between 2 to 15 percent of those people attending weddings at Lake Tahoe participate in some form of recreational activity during their stay.

The association considers the wedding and honeymoon industry on South Shore to be lagging far behind its potential. Wedding licenses sold in the Tahoe Basin portion of El Dorado County have declined steadily from a 1990 high of 10,837 to the 1998 low of 6,593.

Funds received from the license increase would be used to market the industry in bridal magazines, trade shows and other promotions. According to Crabb, the chambers of commerce or the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority are likely organizations to manage the funds, although that has not yet been determined.

The Lake Tahoe Wedding & Honeymoon Association was originally organized about four years ago specifically to push for the license fee increase. At that time, they backed off, feeling the association was not sufficiently organized to pay the cost in time and money nor the wedding industry sufficiently united behind the increase.

Many chapel owners at that time feared the increase would drive business to other areas.

In recent months, the association has emphasized that licenses on South Shore are will below industry standards.

Douglas County licenses cost $42. El Dorado County is $50. Placer County licenses cost $47.

In San Francisco County, a license costs $69 and, in Monterey County, the cost is $54.

Time and education has changed the appetite for an increase at the lake.

Both Crabb and board President Jeff Kaufer said they had encountered no opposition during recent discussions.

“I got a positive response (from the county),” Crabb said of a meeting with county officials on Feb. 8. “There was good progress. They wanted to see it move forward.”

Crabb will now help move the ballot proposal through Board of Supervisors approval, and will work with the elections department to create a legally acceptable ballot document.

“Beyond that the chambers and association must step up,” he said, referring to the effort it will take to educate voters and the costs involved for promotions and election expenses.

Crabb, who has worked on similar efforts, said that such campaigns can cost as little as $5,000 or several times that. Those with the most volunteer work seem to do better, he said.

In the next few weeks, the county elections department will estimate what it will cost the association if a ballot measure is defeated. Depending on what else is likely to be on the ballot, it could cost the around $10,000.

A condition of El Dorado County’s approval for the ballot, Crabb said, would be an agreement among Douglas County Lake Tahoe chapels to impose the same fee. Later, it would go through the Nevada legislative process to make it official.

Board member David Anderson, who operates a Nevada-side chapel, said that those Nevada chapels contacted so far were agreeable to the arrangement.

“The question is not to put anybody at a competitive disadvantage,” Anderson said.

Because the fee would largely be paid by nonresidents, the association does not expect much opposition.

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