Robert French: Seeking specifics on Measure K’s transient occupancy tax proposal
I read with particular interest the recent brochure mailed to Truckee residents by the Town of Truckee regarding the proposal (Measure K) to increase the transient occupancy tax (TOT) from its present 10% to 12%. Measure K will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election.
I believe that, because an increase in the TOT will have direct impacts upon tourism, and tourism is the current lifeblood of the Truckee region, it is important to examine this measure carefully before we vote either way on the measure.
Based upon the limited information which I have read, I have two concerns about the ballot measure:
1. Are the stated objectives for the use of the funds generated by the increase in the TOT realistic? Or are these stated objectives merely themes successfully tested by political focus groups that the Town knows that local voters will support whether the funds will realistically solve any of the serious challenges that our community faces?
2. Is it strictly mandated that the Town of Truckee will only use the funds generated by Measure K for the stated purposes rather than some other local purposes?
The Town states that the objectives of Measure K are to provide funding for:
Affordable housing for low and middle income workers, and for essential professionals (teachers, nurses, police, firefighters, and paramedics);
Preparing for wildfires and other natural disasters; and
Working with partners to acquire and permanently preserve natural open space lands.
By the Town’s own admission, the increase in TOT revenues generated by Measure K will amount to $700,000 annually. That’s right, $700,000. Compare that amount with the median price of a home in Truckee of $618,000. The additional revenues of Measure K will amount to slightly more than the cost of a Truckee home. Just how much affordable housing can the Town build for this amount of revenue? This fails to adequately make up for decades of lack of planning for affordable housing while approving exclusive and expensive subdivisions which generate high property tax revenues for the Town.
How much meaningful preparation for wildfires can $700,000 buy? The removal of wildland fire fuel in our open spaces and around each of our homes is perhaps the greatest risk of a local conflagration similar to what occurred in Paradise, California several years ago. Is the Town planning on removing the fuel around our town and homes? The Town needs to be specific in describing exactly what it plans on doing with these funds rather than simply mentioning an issue that is on everyone’s mind during this time when our state is literally on fire from stem to stern.
What is the meaning of the statement, “Working with partners to acquire and permanently preserve natural open space lands”? Will the Town use these Measure K monies to purchase open space? If so, say so rather than tell us that you will “work with partners” towards this goal. That gobbley-gook tells us nothing. The cost of open space land is likely to be many millions of dollars. How will the Town accomplish this objective with a (comparatively) paltry $700,000 annually?
The Town does not promise voters that the Measure K monies will be used exclusively for these stated goals. Rather, it states that it will create a “separate accounting fund to record all revenues and expenditures” and provide a citizen oversight committee (which the Town knows polls favorably any time that tax or bond monies are being raised). Of course, improved accounting is laudable, but what we want and need is an ironclad guarantee that the Measure K revenues will be used exclusively for the stated goals. If that is not the case, then the potential for mischief exists.
I have not developed any personal position on the ballot measure yet, but I need this type of information to be able to support the measure.
So, Town of Truckee, please don’t speak in generalities; instead, tell us exactly how you will use these funds and when they will be used. Give us specifics. Give us a timetable. And guarantee that the funds will not be used for any other purpose.
Robert F. French lives in Truckee.
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