Agencies express relief at ‘yes’ vote |

Agencies express relief at ‘yes’ vote

by Merrie Leininger

Now that the advisory question has been approved by the residents, county service directors are breathing a sigh of relief.

County senior services Director Kathleen Maidlow said with out their approval, the department would have had to scramble to find other funding.

That’s a big problem, considering federal and state funds are often only given if the matching county funds are promised.

“(If it hadn’t passed) we would have had to cut programs and staff or found other ways or done more fund-raisers,” she said.

Cutbacks in programs could have seriously hurt the 650 senior citizens who receive their services.

Maidlow said the programs they provide help keep many seniors out of care facilities and in their own homes.

Programs such as homebound meals and the homemaker program that helps seniors with housekeeping, grocery shopping and even bathing might have seriously suffered.

The room tax provides about $152,000 of the $383,000 budget, Maidlow said.

She said employees are feeling much better this week and are planning for the future again, promoting programs and thinking of new ones.

Maidlow thanked those responsible for getting the initiative passed.

“I want to thank the PALS group and all the volunteers that helped promote the ‘yes’ vote – it’s all because of them,” she said. “It’s nice the community got together to promote this.”

Library Director Linda Deacy said the library couldn’t have survived without the sales tax. Last year, the room tax provided $812,000 and the library only generated $26,000 in fines. They also received $47,000 from a state grant.

“The library was the only of the four agencies involved that was almost entirely dependent on room tax,” Deacy said. “If we had lost the room tax, would would not be open to collect fines.”

Deacy said she is still not sure how the library will be affected because it has not been decided how the sales tax money will be distributed.

“However, it is my understanding the library will receive full replacement funding,” she said.

Deacy said she believes the reason the PALS issue did pass in a “historically anti-tax county,” was the endorsement by the county commission and the mailings they sent out.

“The issue was never very visible because we never had any organized opposition, so people didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I want to thank the people of Douglas County for taking the time to listen to us and going to the polls and voting for us.”

Considering the parks and recreation department’s budget is also mostly made up of room tax money, without it, serious problems would have developed.

“The cuts would have been severe. There certainly would have been layoffs,” said Scott Morgan, director of the department. “Because (the room tax money wouldn’t be taken away all at once) we were discussing transitioning and that certainly would include closing facilities and programs.”

The total parks and recreation budget is about $2.5 million, Morgan said, made up of $1.8 million in room tax.

Morgan said, depending on whose figures you look at, the sales tax will still not cover the total room tax losses.

“It will not entirely replace room tax revenues once they are totally gone,” he said. “So we will continue what we are always doing, looking at a different way to do things; the best ways to be efficient and reduce where needed.”

Minden/Tahoe Airport Director Jim Braswell said the airport would have suffered because the facility also receives federal money that has to be matched by county funds for important ongoing repairs to the runways and taxiways.

It also would have seriously set the airport back in their goal of becoming financially independent of the county, Braswell said.

County Manager Dan Holler said the room tax will be taken away from the county in phases over nine years as the amount needed for tourist promotion is expected to increase 2 percent every year.

The county received 5 cents from every room tax dollar, adding up to a little over $2 million.

Douglas County will lose between $1.5-$1.7 million of room tax in the first year and the sales tax will generate $1.1 million.

“Hopefully, in that (nine years) we will see a growth in sales tax and at the end of the time period, it will balance out,” Holler said.

The county certainly won’t be making any money off the deal, Holler said.

“In fact, over time we might be a little short,” he said.

The 6.25 percent tax is expected to be in place by next July, after the state Legislature and the state Department of Taxation review it.

The cost to each Douglas County family of four averages out to an extra $36.50 a year, based on a study done by the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

Holler said that number is based on the average income and how much each family spends on taxable items such as underwear, deodorant and auto parts. Groceries are not taxable.

Holler said the county figures about 40-50 percent of the revenue will be generated by tourist purchases.

One-third of the sales tax revenues now are from eating and drinking establishments, he said.

“And assuming a large percent of that is driven by tourism at the Lake and here at Sharkey’s and the Carson Valley Inn, that’s a lot,” he said. “Also, some of the gift shops in the casinos and the golfing activity and sale of golf equipment at the Lake makes up some of that.”

He also pointed out that, while gasoline is not taxable, when people stop in Douglas County to get gas, they usually go into the store and buy food or drinks.

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