Opinion: Donating to Truckee aquatic center poor use of taxpayer money
Special to the Sun
At a recent meeting of the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors, a request was presented by the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District, asking TFHD to donate $181,000 to their aquatic center, largely to fund a warm water swimming pool.
As an employee of Tahoe Forest Hospital District, I must state my opposition. First, let me say that I am not questioning that the Aquatic Center constitutes a “good cause.” However, I do not feel it is appropriate for one taxpayer-funded special district to subsidize the projects of another taxpayer-funded special district, “good cause” notwithstanding.
This kind of thing occurs frequently in this community, and is not necessarily a proper use of taxpayer dollars.
A good example is Truckee Tahoe Airport District, which has come to be viewed as a deep-pocket source of funds by many special interests in this community. Few if any of these special interest projects, which include land acquisition, public event facilities, and even support for private enterprises, have any direct connection to airport business.
When a taxpayer-supported entity chooses to donate funds or other resources to special interests, we, the taxpayers, have no direct say over how our monies are being used.
Aside from general concerns about this kind of activity, I have specific concerns about a TFHD donation to the Truckee Parks and Rec District:
1. By requesting this donation, TDRPD is attempting to do an end-run around the fact that their last bond measure was not approved by a sufficient percentage of voters to pass.
2. TFHD encompasses 3,500 square miles, two states, and multiple counties. The Parks and Rec District is limited to Truckee, essentially to the I-80 corridor. Therefore, this donation would be using the tax dollars of many taxpayers not within the Parks and Rec District (not to mention the tax dollars of voters who voted against the Parks and Rec bond measure).
3. The argument by Parks and Rec that taxpayers outside their District would benefit from the Aquatic Center is specious; how likely is it that someone would drive from Tahoma to use this facility?
4. The Aquatic Center is hardly under-funded; millions of dollars have already been spent on it. It is lavish by big-city standards, and beyond lavish for a community this size.
5. In discussing the Aquatic Center with other members of the community, I have significant concerns about whether or not the monies already spent on the center were well-managed.
6. Proponents of the proposed donation by TFHD constitute a relatively small, although well-organized, cohort; they do not represent the majority of taxpayers within TFHD.
7. Making this donation could set an unfortunate precedent, whereby TFHD comes to be viewed as a source of financing for other special-interest needs in the community.
Finally, many members of our community struggle to afford health care services. Many patients who enter our health care system lack in basic needs, such as adequate nutrition. There are also employees of TFHD who are struggling to make ends meet.
Through the nonprofit TFHS Foundation, there are patient and employee assistance programs designed to help with such needs. These programs are directly related to TFHD business, which the Aquatic Center is not.
If TFHD has money to donate, wouldn’t assisting its own patients and employees be a better use of that much money?
Lore’ McLaren is a Truckee resident.
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