Room Tax equals cows, Douglas County equals calves
The way Nate Leising sees it, getting Douglas County off room tax revenue is like weaning calves.
“On the ranch, you have calves always running after their mother, trying to nurse. It isn’t until you physically put the moms on one side of the fence and the calves on the other, that you make any progress.
“The calves are going to bawl for a couple of days, then they’ll look down and start eating the grass that’s growing right underneath them.”
According to Leising’s analogy, the room tax is the cow and Douglas County is represented by the bellowing calves.
It’s the task of the recently-appointed Room Tax Citizens Committee, of which Leising is chair, to develop a plan to help the county learn how to live without $1.7 million which will be lost annually once the room tax revenue is shifted to promoting Tahoe tourism.
The citizens committee, with two meetings under its collective belt, hopes that residents will take the initiative to attend and offer input at the weekly meetings.
“We want to encourage the public to come in and voice solutions,” said Leising. “We want people to think about how we can get what we want.”
Leising said he and the other 10 committee members are adamant that they don’t want to hear a lot of complaints.
“Let’s get rid of the Lake Tahoe-Valley syndrome. That’s behind us. We need to look ahead, to come together as a community. I wish we’d have 200 people at each meeting.”
Leising has eight years experience as a Douglas County Planning Commission member to put to use in working with the citizens’ committee. Robin Reedy, a Gardnerville resident is vice chair.
Other members – who represent a mix of Lake and Valley residents – include Ray Case, Kathleen Farrell, Bob Gable, Richard Glasson, Michael Ivie, Lee Rathbun, John Soderman, Al Walker and a representative of the Tahoe Douglas Visitors’ Authority.
“We would like to just be able to get people there and have people in the community start thinking of solutions of how to take care of the problems we face. We want comments and ideas on alternate funding sources. We have to ask ourselves if maybe we don’t want to have some of the things we have.”
“We don’t want to spend a lot of time on the problem,” he said. “Everybody already knows what the problem is.”
At the close of its 1997 session, the Nevada Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 616 which created the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and mandated that 50 percent of the room tax money generated at Lake Tahoe would be used to promote tourism beginning in 1999.
The legislation was in response to an effort by the Tahoe Citizens Committee to create its own county, complaining that the Lake portion contributed significant revenue to Douglas County with disproportionate results in county services.
Rather than create the new county, the Legislature created AB616.
Eventually, 65 percent of the room tax revenue will be devoted to tourism. That means the county must either cut services or find a new way to fund parks and recreation, the library and segments of the airport and senior services.
Leising said the meetings, which are held Tuesdays at the Douglas County Senior Citizens Center in Gardnerville, last about two hours. Some meetings will be scheduled at locations at Lake Tahoe.
He said 10 to 15 residents showed up at the first meeting and generated “a lot of dialogue.”
“I really think we can do it in two months,” Leising said. “I’m really interested in seeing alternatives. Some people think taxes are the only option. I don’t buy that. I’m much more interested in seeing a cohesive community that comes together. I believe this is a golden opportunity to do some really, really good things. I hope we can give the board a good set of options of what we can do.”