South Lake Tahoe City Council Candidates Answer Budget Questions | South Lake Tahoe

Eleven people are vying for a seat on the South Lake Tahoe City Council. With only three places open, it’s not easy to narrow down the choices.

South Tahoe Now reached out to all 11 candidates and received answers to all questions from just seven of them. Every day this week their answers will be published. This election will be different due to the crowded field and all answers to question number one will be published on Monday, answers to question two on Tuesday and so on. The order will rotate every day. (See the answers to question #1 here, to question #2 here, and to question #3 here.)

Question #4: What was the city’s budget this year? What would you like to see changed, if anything, and where would the money come from? Any other inputs?

Joby Cefalu – City revenue for 21/22 was $56.4 million, including revenue generated from Measure S. 22/23 revenue is $56.9 million, including revenue from Measure S. A deviation of $1.4 million -Dollars all related to Measure S. From a budgetary point of view, 60% was financed from both the TOT and the sales tax generated by tourism. The budget process starts in August each year, is approved in August and comes into effect in October. Every year in March, the city reviews the mid-year budget to make sure everything is in alignment. 70 percent of the actual budget is spent on salaries and benefits. With this in mind, the Council and all of its members must constantly grapple with change and the ability to sustainably fund that change. As well as continuing to tax our local people during these difficult times, I will review and analyze all potential sources of funding to come up with realistic and sustainable sources of funding.

Kevin Bruner – The total budget for 2022-23 as of October 1, 2022 is approximately $121 million. The two largest revenues are property taxes and TOT. The two biggest expenses are police and fire brigade. I would like to see some effort made to create more housing by acquiring abandoned properties and/or renovating existing properties to make housing available more quickly. I believe we should be more aggressive in seeking funding opportunities at both the state and federal levels and partnering with larger nonprofit organizations to fund these ideas. For example, I’d like to see a partnership between the city and Habitat for Humanity to not just create homes, but make them energy efficient and use solar and other technologies.

David Jinkens – Total budget appropriations for FY2022 are $114.2 million, with general fund appropriations totaling $54.4 million, including measure S sales tax general fund appropriations of $6.2 million U.S. dollar. I’m the only City Council candidate to have presented more than 35 balanced city budgets in his career. The city budgets are the result of the goals set by the city council. I learned long ago that when the city cares about everything, nothing matters. Limited city funds need to be channeled to the things that matter most. Once the city council has determined its top priorities, the city manager and staff can allocate funds to those priorities within the proposed budget and present the prioritized budget to the city council for public review and approval. We cannot finance every whim and every wish. We need to listen to what the community tells us is important and then budget accordingly. We have competent management and staff that can allocate funds in the budget to meet the highest priorities set in advance by the City Council.

Nicole Ramirez-Thomas The amended city budget for 2021-2022 was $134,044,943 and the recently approved city budget (fiscal year 2022-2023) is $121,086,073. Specific funding sources such as Measure S and Measure P have been successful in funding roads, public safety infrastructure and recreational facilities. More of these types of targeted actions would be good for the additional needs in the community. Both required tax increases, but there are other possible sources of funding to explore.

Scott Robbins – The city’s total budget for 2022-23 is $136 million with projected revenue of approximately $121 million. The largest expenditure items are the police and the fire department with a total of about 20 million US dollars.

We must dramatically increase our investment in affordable workers’ housing, increase firefighter wages relative to Tahoe’s cost of living, massively increase the pace of road repairs, and eliminate the sales tax hikes that are hurting locals.

We can fund this need by raising the TOT tax, developing a vacancy tax on vacant second homes, as was done in Oakland and Vancouver, and by cutting unnecessary spending that doesn’t align with the priorities we publicly set.

Twice in the past two years, the city has pushed sales tax hikes that hurt locals. These sales tax increases should be reversed and the tax burden should be shifted from locals to tourists and holiday homes. We should raise the tourism tax to 16% citywide and create a new vacant second home tax, similar to what we’ve done in Oakland and Vancouver. A vacancy tax like Oakland’s could generate revenue on the order of $30 million without hurting locals, while providing a powerful incentive for second home sales or rentals. Vancouver’s vacancy tax resulted in 30% of their vacant homes being made available for local housing.

The city is constantly wasting money on things big and small. We spend over half a million dollars annually to subsidize the 1200 private jets that fly into our airport each year. We spend hundreds of thousands more on unnecessary consultants and thousands more on unnecessary travel. We need to drastically increase airport jet fees and turn the airport from an annual cash sink to an annual revenue stream. We need real discipline in our spending decisions – every time money is wasted, even if it’s relatively small, it undermines trust in local government to tax and spend responsibly.

Tamara Wallace – Amended budget for 2021-22 is $49,982,515 (including mid-year changes and projections for revenue and expenditure for the last two months). Projected budget for 2022/23 is $50,885,757.

The only changes I’d like to see aren’t necessarily in the budget itself, but in the way we grow revenue. I never believed that we could tax our way to wealth. However, we need to increase revenue to keep up with rising costs (inflation, pensions, construction, deferred maintenance, etc.). I want us (the council, the staff and the community) to look at alternatives to raising taxes that could help cover these costs.

I already have a few ideas myself.

Chantelle Schenning The city’s budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 is $121 million in revenue. Almost half of this revenue comes from the General Fund, with the most significant contributions being sales tax, property tax and Transitional Occupancy Tax (TOT). So far, I’ve been impressed by the innovative approaches to sustainably reducing costs. For example, efforts to purchase the city’s own road repair equipment rather than outsourcing it at a higher cost. These are strategic, thoughtful ways to be most effective with taxpayers’ money. As a City Council member, I would do my part to influence and support such decisions. I also believe that there is always room for improvement. For 2022-2023, the Fire budget appears to have only increased by 41,000. I am concerned that we are not allocating enough of our fire department budget to retain our firefighters and allow them to afford housing in our city. Additionally, TOT earnings are volatile. I’d love to see suggestions on how to stabilize TOT, how to be smarter about spending, and how to increase revenue for city priorities without additional taxes for residents.

Eventually, other city council candidates and incumbents have embraced the approach of “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.” I strongly disagree with this approach because it is inefficient and wastes taxpayers’ money while people count on us to help solve challenges. When we run a city, we should be rigorous, strategic, and make data-driven decisions that will have the greatest impact. You can expect that from me!

Here are the websites and contact information for each of the eight candidates who answered the above questions (in alphabetical order):

Kevin Brunner –, [email protected]
Joby Cefalu –, [email protected]
David Jinkens –, [email protected]
Nicole Ramirez Thomas –, [email protected]
Scott Robbins –, [email protected]
Chantelle Schenning –, [email protected]
Tamara Wallace –, [email protected]

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