Is Truckee a Better Place?
This November and next March will see two milestones in Truckee’s history. November marks the 10-year anniversary of when the residents of this community came together to vote for incorporation. And March (the 23rd to be exact) marks the town’s actual incorporation date.
A lot of change has occurred over 10 years and I thought that it might be a good idea to look back as well as look forward at the variety of areas that the now, not-so-new town has been and will be involved in. Topics to be covered over the next several months will include overall governance and fiscal health, road maintenance and snow removal, planning, physical facilities, animal control services, code enforcement, development, and police services.
The primary reason that people usually vote to incorporate a city is to have local control over their own destiny. Certainly the poor condition of our roads as well as future planning issues drove the Truckee incorporation discussions, but the numerous individual issues also revolved around the fact that we were represented by only one of five supervisors in Nevada County and that there was no chance to improve those odds. Incorporation changed that! You now elect all five Council members and have a chance to make changes every two years. Since 1993, there have been 11 different individuals sitting in those Council seats – all local Truckee-ites with the best interests of this community at heart. They don’t have to balance their decisions against how it will “play” at the other end of the county – only how it will affect you and your neighbors. The issues coming before them have been numerous and sometimes difficult, but the primary goal of incorporation – local control of those decisions – has been met. You may not agree with one or more of the individual decisions, but from my perspective, this form of local Town governance has been a resounding success.
Now, do you personally want to influence that governance in a big way? Here’s your chance! Until August 9, you have the opportunity to run for town council. Just come in to Town Hall before that date and see the town clerk for the packet of information on how to become a candidate. It could take some time to fill out the paperwork so don’t wait until the last minute.
Town Fiscal Health
Before incorporation, a study was completed that estimated what the cost to run the proposed new town was and what revenues could be expected to come in from all of the various local, state and federal sources.
The study also projected the minimum level of reserves that should be built up during the first five years of town operations. Well, those projections were off – in a good way. Since the beginning, town council philosophies related to budgeting have been conservative.
Each year actual revenues have exceeded projections and in turn actual expenses have come in under projections. Town reserves consistently have exceeded the original study estimates. In all, the town is fiscally sound.
In the early years, we purchased some large equipment (like snow blowers and road graders) using financing, since we were not yet sure of our long-term fiscal condition. This year we paid off the last of those financing arrangements. We are now able to operate on the “pay-as-you-go” plan, using your tax dollars for equipment and services rather than giving a portion of those dollars to financing companies. Only the existing Town Hall building on Airport Road is financed, and that project is building equity so that when a permanent project is decided upon, the proceeds from the existing asset can be used to help offset future project costs.
Dollars coming in
Town operating revenues come from dozens of different sources; however the big three are property taxes, sales taxes and transient occupancy taxes. Other local sources include fees for services (like building permits, encroachment permits, etc.), court fines, franchise fees, parcel charges, animal licenses, etc.
Other non-local revenues include things like state gas taxes, transit revenues, and a variety of state and federal grants that make up the town’s current $22.4 million budget.
Future financial health
All in all, your town is in excellent financial shape. Our revenue from property taxes increases each year as development and home re-sales continue to occur, and sales tax revenue continues to increase as our tourism economy prospers. We are not bulletproof, and our expenses are increasing, but we are on a steady, balanced and secure course.
Fiscally, the Town Council plans well in advance not only with an Annual Operating Budget but also with a Five Year Capital Improvement Budget, a Six Year Road Maintenance Plan and a Twenty Year Equipment Replacement Policy.
If you are interested in more details on any of the topics I have mentioned above, please give me a call at 582-7700. Next month I’ll spend some time talking about how a lot of that tax money gets spent – on road maintenance and snow removal. Please stay tuned.
Stephen Wright is Truckee’s town manager.
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