South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates answer budget questions | South of Lake Tahoe

Eleven people are vying for a spot on the South Lake Tahoe City Council. With only three free places, it is not easy to narrow down the choices.

South Tahoe Now contacted all 11 applicants and received answers to all questions from just seven of them. Each day of this week, their answers will be published. It will be different this election due to the crowded field and all the answers to question one will be released on Monday, the answers to question two on Tuesday, and so on. The order will rotate daily. (See answers to question 1 here, question 2 here, and question 3 here.)

Question #4: What was the City’s budget this year? What, if anything, would you like to see changed and where would the money come from? Another entry?

Joby Cefalu – City revenue for 21/22 was $56.4 million, including revenue generated from Measure S. Revenue for 22/23 is $56.9 million, including Measure S funds A variance of $1.4 million entirely related to the S measure. Each year, the budget process is launched in August, adopted in August and takes effect in October. Every year, the City reviews the mid-year budgeting in March to make sure everything is in line. 70% of the actual budget is spent on salaries and benefits. That said, the Board and all of its members must constantly examine changes and the ability to sustainably fund those changes. In addition to taxing our local people more during these difficult times, I will be reviewing and analyzing all potential funding sources to maintain realistic and sustainable sources of funding.

Kevin Brunner – The total budget for 2022-23 as of October 1, 2022 is approximately $121 million. The two main revenues are property taxes and the TOT. The 2 main expenses are the police and the fire department. I would like to see efforts to create more housing by acquiring derelict properties and/or renovating existing properties to make housing available more quickly. I think we should be more aggressive in pursuing grant opportunities at the state and federal level, as well as partnering with larger nonprofits to fund these ideas. For example, I would like to see a partnership between the city and Habitat for Humanity to not only create houses, but also make them energy efficient and use solar energy and other technologies.

David Jinken – Total budget appropriations for fiscal year 2022 are $114.2 million, with general fund appropriations totaling $54.4 million, including Measure S general fund appropriations for sales tax of 6, $2 million. I am the only candidate for city council to have presented more than 35 balanced city budgets in my career. Municipal budgets are the product of targets set by the municipal council. I learned a long time ago that while everything matters to the city, nothing matters. The city’s limited funds must be directed to the things that are of the highest priority. Once the city council has determined its highest priorities, the city manager and staff can then allocate funds within the proposed budget to those priorities and present the priority budget to the city council for public review and adoption. We cannot fund every whim and desire. We need to listen to what the community tells us is important, and then budget accordingly. We have capable management and staff who can allocate funds in the budget to meet the highest priorities set in advance by the City Council.

Nicole Ramirez Thomas – The City’s amended budget for 2021-2022 was $134,044,943 and the City’s recently enacted budget (budget year 2022-2023) is $121,086,073. Dedicated 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 measures would be good for additional needs in the community. Both of these necessary tax increases, but there are other possible sources of funding to explore.

Scott Robbin- The city’s total budget for 2022-23 is $136 million on projected revenues of approximately $121 million. The largest expense items are police and fire services, totaling about $20 million.

We need to dramatically increase our investments in affordable workforce housing, increase firefighter pay relative to the cost of living in Tahoe, massively increase the pace of road repairs, and eliminate the sales tax hikes that harm residents.

We can fund these needs by increasing the TOT tax, developing a vacancy tax on empty second homes as has been done in Oakland and Vancouver, and cutting wasteful spending that doesn’t align with the priorities we have publicly fixed.

Twice in the past two years, the city has imposed sales tax hikes that hurt residents. These sales tax hikes should be rolled back and the tax burden shifted from locals to tourists and vacation homes. We should raise the resort tax to 16% citywide and develop a new tax on vacant second homes, similar to those in Oakland and Vancouver. A vacancy tax like Oakland’s could generate revenue on the order of $30 million, without harming residents and simultaneously providing a strong incentive to sell or rent second homes. Vancouver’s vacancy tax has resulted in 30% of their vacant units being made available for local housing.

The city continually wastes money on things big and small. We spend over half a million dollars a year to subsidize the 1,200 private jets that serve our airport each year. We spend hundreds of thousands more on unnecessary consultants and thousands on unnecessary travel. We need to dramatically increase airport jet charges and transform the airport from an annual money sink into an annual revenue generator. We need to exercise real discipline in our spending decisions – every time money is wasted, even when it is relatively small, it erodes confidence in local government to tax and spend responsibly.

Tamara Wallace – The 2021/22 amended budget is $49,982,515 (includes mid-year changes and projections for the last two months of income and expenses). The 2022/23 projected budget is $50,885,757.

The only changes I would like to see are not necessarily in the budget itself, but in how we plan to increase revenue. I never believed that we could tax our way to prosperity. That said, we need to increase revenue to meet rising costs (inflation, pensions, construction, deferred maintenance, etc.). I would like us (council, staff and community) to look at tax increase alternatives that could help cover these costs.

I already have some ideas myself.

Chantelle Schenning- The City’s budget for fiscal year 2022-23 is $121 million in revenue. Nearly half of this revenue comes from the general fund, with the main contributors being sales tax, property tax, and transitional occupancy tax (TOT). So far, I’m impressed with the innovative approaches to reducing costs over the long term. For example, an effort to purchase the City’s own equipment to repair roads instead of contracting out at higher costs. These are strategic and thoughtful ways to be more efficient with taxpayers’ money. As a member of the city council, I would do my part to influence and support these kinds of decisions. I also believe that there is always room for improvement. For 2022-23, the Fire budget appears to have only increased by 41,000. I’m concerned that we are not allocating enough to our Fire budget to retain our firefighters and allow them to house in our city. Additionally, TOT earnings are volatile. I would like to see proposals on how to stabilize the TOT, ways to be smarter about spending, and ways to increase revenue for city priorities without additional taxes on residents.

Finally, other candidates and incumbents on the city council subscribed to an approach consisting in “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks”. I strongly disagree with this approach because it is inefficient and wastes taxpayers’ money when people are counting on us to help solve problems. When we run a city, we need to be more thorough, be strategic, and make data-driven decisions that have the most impact. You can expect that from me!

Here are the websites and contact information for each of the eight candidates who answered the questions above (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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