Truckee council opposed to proposed county tax measure as written

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Truckee Town Council on Tuesday evening unanimously agreed it could not support a proposed Nevada County tax measure as written. 

The proposed sales tax, which would require a simple majority to pass, would mainly fund efforts to reduce fuel loads and increase evacuation safety. If passed, it’s expected to raise approximately $12 million a year, Nevada County Assistant CEO Caleb Dardick said.

A four-fifths vote of the supervisors is required to put the issue on the ballot. Discussion is set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

“The No. 1 concern is evacuation safety,” Dardick said.

The unincorporated county’s sales tax is currently 7.5% and the town of Truckee’s sales tax is 8.25%.

The proposal stems from a work group formed by CEO Alison Lehman. It included city managers, first responders, law enforcement, community leaders and county staff. The group identified the county’s needs concerning fire safety, then looked at a sustainable funding source.

The group identified over 60 programs that would have cost an estimated $36 million a year to fund, Dardick said. It then whittled those down to six, with reducing fuel load and increased evacuation safety as the top priorities.

“We identified a countywide sales tax that we believe would raise $12 million per year,” he added.

Polling performed by the county showed widespread support for taking action, with some 65% in favor, Dardick said.

A sales tax for a special or specific purpose requires a two-thirds threshold to pass. A general purpose tax needs only a simple majority.

Dardick said this proposed tax would be general purpose, and enable the county to perform multiple functions. It could contract out the creation of large fuel break projects and work with law enforcement to reach homeless people who need to be moved from unsafe areas. A year-round green waste disposal site is another aspect.

“These are things that the county can do that can have a real impact on the community,” Dardick said.

However, the Truckee Town Council was not impressed with the proposed language of the measure. While they support the purpose of the tax, they expressed some hangups on the logistics. 

The first major hold-up is the lack of a sunset clause. During a presentation to the council, county staff said there is so much catch-up work that needs to be done to make the county fire safe, that a time cap would prevent them from getting all the work done. It would also limit the county’s ability to do maintenance work in areas where fuel reduction work is completed. 

Vice Mayor Lindsay Romack said putting a sunset clause in would give constituents a piece of mind about the county’s ability to get work done within a guaranteed time limit. 

The council directed staff to look at the logistics of a six or eight year sunset clause. 

Another hang-up for the council is that if this measure passes, it will put the town close to its tax cap, which could limit the town’s ability to address future issues, especially if the sunset clause isn’t added. 

The third item the council wants to see added in is a clause which directs some of the money collected back to the town, which would allow them some control over how the money is spent. 

Several county supervisors were present at the council’s meeting and heard the council’s feedback. 

During the meeting, the council also approved $16,603 to be given to Clean Up the Lake’s Donner Lake clean-up effort. CUTL, which has completed half of the lake clean-up, needed about $114,000 for the project. 

This contract helped CUTL meet their fundraising goal. 

In addition, the council directed the Art’s Commission to request proposals from the public for an art project using the trash collected by CUTL. 

Alan Riquelmy contributed to this article. Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief at The Union.

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