Guest Column: Incorporate Olympic Valley and Squaw Valley can work together
April 24, 2014
There has been much discussion lately about the goals of incorporation. As with so many public debates these days, the conversation has been colored more by emotion than by facts. We at IOV seek a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.
Specifically we believe in the following:
1. SELF-DETERMINATION: We can enhance our community by achieving more local control of government decisions that affect our citizenry as well as our north Tahoe neighbors rather than deferring to Placer County officials from urban and suburban settings some 70 miles away. Creating a politically accountable local government is a hallmark of democracy in this country. We don't claim to represent all of Squaw's stakeholders, but we challenge anyone to name a group more qualified to make political decisions representative of Squaw's interests than its registered voters. We are entitled to vote on incorporation, with all parties being part of the conversation before such a vote.
2. COMMUNITY VALUES: We want to promote economic viability, smart and sensible development, and environmental sustainability compatible with our community's character, values, and mountain setting.
3. QUALITY SERVICES: Local management responsive to and passionate about our community can prioritize and improve local services without raising taxes. Voter approval would be required in order to raise taxes in any case.
4. FISCAL VIABILITY: The incorporation process under state law necessitates the new town be fiscally viable through good times and bad. Any conversation on fiscal viability requires thoughtful and complete fiscal due diligence based on facts, not opinions.
Squaw Valley is a crown jewel of the Sierra. Working together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape its future for generations to come. Environment and economy are not antagonistic. Here, the environment is the economy.
IOV supports sensible growth. We all want to see a thriving village and a world-class resort. Discussion on development can draw upon KSL's extensive community outreach in revising their plans based on community feedback.
Also, the hard work of the Friends of Squaw Valley, the Design Review Committee and the Municipal Advisory Council is shaping the development's design and aesthetics to be compatible with the character of our community and its beloved setting.
This design in turn can form the beginnings of a General Plan for the town, providing a blueprint for long-term land use and other decision-making for years to come.
Squaw Valley is an engine for prosperity in the valley and the region. Assessed property values in the proposed town exceed 1.1 billion dollars and once again are on the rise. Property taxes and hotel bed taxes generate over 15 million dollars in revenue a year.
If voters choose to form a new town, the large majority of this revenue will continue to support vital regional services such as schools, hospitals, transportation, public utilities, and capital improvements. The remaining money can be used to support the town's services.
A tax-sharing agreement negotiated with the county will address the town's long-term fiscal viability over inevitable fluctuations in economic cycles in a weather and tourism dependent economy.
IOV has analyzed property taxes going back 10 years and hotel bed taxes back 5 years, which include the "Great Recession" and the worst drought of our lifetimes. Placer LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), a neutral party and referee in the incorporation process, is contracting with a financial services firm for a comprehensive fiscal analysis to document the revenues, expenses and service levels of the new town.
We are convinced that this comprehensive fiscal analysis will show the town can support its services year in and year out with existing revenues. We encourage all stakeholders to use this financial analysis for an informed debate on Olympic Valley's financials and the effect on our partners across the region.
IOV is committed to transparency and community involvement. We hold a "town hall" meeting at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the SVPSD, providing an update on the incorporation status and an open forum. We invite all interested stakeholders to join us, learn more about incorporation, and help shape a new town to serve our community. Our next meeting is May 6th.
Dr. Fred Ilfeld is chair of the IOV board. Learn more at http://www.IncorporateOlympicValley.org.
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