My Turn: A ‘yes’ vote for Measure J is a vote for economics, tourism and quality of life
September 27, 2012
TRUCKEE, Calif. — It is extremely unfortunate Tahoe Forest Hospital District announced a tax increase to all of North Tahoe and Truckee in the midst of the Measure J effort to improve our tourism, quality of life and recreation. I seriously question why our press and certain citizenry correlate TFHD’s problem with Measure J. The question is fair; the correlation is clearly not.I take issue with numerous letters to the editor, and in particular Margaret Moran’s Measure J article in the Sept. 25 Sierra Sun, where she opens the article about TFHD’s raised tax assessment and the subsequent lack of “confidence” attack on Measure J financing. I suggest a better article can be written to educate everyone regarding how bonds work, how TFHD got into their tax pickle and how tax payments will look given future tax assessment changes. There is zero relationship between the shocking TFHD tax announcement and the Measure J effort.For some, what is a bond measure? Typically they are named General Obligation Bonds and are essentially variable interest loans used to construct infrastructure. They are backed by tax assessments. When property owner values goes up, the tax revenues (via assessment) go up. When values go down, the tax revenues go down. The Hospital District used an 8 percent annual property tax inflator as part of their 30-year tax forecasting. And when recent tax assessments and revenues went negative starting in 2008, TFHD was caught with a large note to pay with less money to satisfy the debt.The Recreation District is a world apart from the Hospital District. First, the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Parks District has used a 65 percent lower assessed property forecast and they are not doing the forecasting at the top of an economic bubble.Second, TDRPD commissioned three voter surveys to understand facility and recreation needs. Results were compelling: nearly all results showed the majority of voters wanted both better performing arts and aquatics. TDRPD would not have put Measure J on the ballot without a request by the public voters, and to this end, TDPRD listened, planned and responded to the citizenry majority in favor of both facilities.Third, over the last four years, TDRPD has significantly reduced the operating size and cost of both the Aquatic Center and Performing Arts Center. The starting facilities totaled $39.2 million where as today we are at $14.2 million — a reduction of $25 million. I can say with confidence these facilities are affordable, effective, efficient and manageable. Best of all, TDRPD is committing $7 million in savings banked from the strong financial management of the TDRPD Community Center project to defray the cost resulting in an even lower tax rate.Last and most important are the monumental community and economic benefits. For every $1 taxed, we generate $4.70 in additional Truckee economic benefit. A wonderful return and it does not even include the $14+ million in actual construction expenditures which will start next year.It is a clear fact that Measure J will strengthen quality of life, recreation, construction and tourism. I argue that all of us will benefit in one fashion or another. Some benefits are tangible, some are not; however, the bottom line is we can make Truckee an even better home. I believe we may never have this opportunity again given the positive timing and excess funds.Avoid the “Sky is Falling” argument and please join me along with hundreds of others in voting YES on Measure J.Kevin C. Murphy is a Truckee resident and a member of the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District board of directors.