Legislature too busy for Tahoe County debate
County Manager Dan Holler told the Douglas County Republican Women’s club Wednesday he didn’t think the proposed Tahoe County would form this year because of many complicated issues at the state level.
“My gut feeling, given the technical issues, (the split) won’t get through in one session,” he told the gathering at the Carson Valley Inn. “The issues they are grappling with are much more far reaching than just Douglas County.”
He explained that the reallocation of the state sales tax could cause the state to be short by up to $2.5 million, which the state will have to make up. The funds to make up the deficit are most likely to come from other counties, mainly Clark County.
Mike Jabara, chairman of the Tahoe Citizen’s Committee, the group pressing for the spilt, said in a telephone interview Thursday, “We’re confident together with the Legislature, a solution could be found to provide for a smooth transition (for all counties involved}.”)
With a separation of the Lake residents, Douglas would lose $7.1 million in tax base, including property, gaming and sales, Holler said.
He added $3.2 million would be lost out of the general fund and $2.2 million in room tax.
Even with some of the expenditures reduced Douglas County will lose, he said.
Jabara said, “I think I can accuse Dan of linear thinking.
“He is looking at the worst case scenario and that there will be no mitigation phase. He is unwilling to cut expenses sufficiently assuming government as usual and not fully providing for the loss of one-fifth of the population.”
Holler said that some county positions would still have to be funded even with a reduction in the county’s population.
Jabara said that there was the prospect for significant savings to Douglas County by combining with Carson City.
Carson Valley and Carson City have common needs that one could supply to the other, he said.
Carson City needs water and land for growth which Douglas has and, Carson has a good business base which Douglas needs, he added.
Jabara said Dave Williams, past president of the Business Council of Douglas County, came up with the Carson-Douglas merger.
Holler said the argument at the Lake is that the new county will not increase taxes.
“That assumption does not work because of the revenue loss,” he said.
Outside of the financial issues, Holler said a number of philosophical issues are raised.
He said he hadn’t heard of any dissatisfaction of services offered at the Lake.
Holler agreed with the idea of self-determination, of the people’s right to form their own government.
However, he was concerned with the general improvement districts at the Lake that may not want to operate under a new county.
Jabara said the TCC has not yet approached the GIDs for approval of the Tahoe County but added that many GID trustees are TCC members.
Holler said the residents at the Lake may be feeling disenfranchisement because a future district reapportionment might leave the Lake without a representative on the Board of Commissioners.
Holler said he thought no matter where commissioners live, they should be able to represent the people fairly.
“We do not have a commissioner that lives in south Topaz,” he said as an example.
Along the same lines he added that Douglas County is not represented proportionately in the Legislature.
Holler defended the issue of allocating money from the room-tax fund to the Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority, for tourism promotion. He said with the closure of Highway 50, the LTVA has already spent $200,000 on promotion. Holler said at this point the advertising money sought, would be a one-time contribution.
He added that not allocating the funds based on a possible, future split would constitute punitive action.
Other public officials attending the meeting were commissioners Steve Weissinger, Bernie Curtis, and Kelly Kite; District Court Judge Michael Gibbons.
Weissinger encouraged the Republican women to send messages to the Legislature regarding the proposed Lake-Douglas spilt.
“This is a critical issue,” he said. “Nothing should be taken lightly.
“The individuals behind the TCC are highly motivate professionals. Even though the Lake represents only 7 percent of the population (of Douglas County), they are driving this issue.”
Mark Neddenriep, president of the Business Council of Douglas County urged Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, in a memo Wednesday, to hire a professional lobbyist to represent Douglas County residents living both at the Lake and in the Valley.
“We believe the time has come for Douglas County to be pro-active on this issue,” he added.
The commission voted at Thursday’s meeting to agendize the hiring of a lobbyist.
The TCC has hired lobbyist Harvey Whittemore.
Holler said he is working on a more comprehensive report on impacts of the split that should be ready for the Feb. 20 commissioners meeting.
The TCC has released its own report in draft, prepared by the law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins, to Holler.