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No new taxes

November 9, 2012

We do not like taxes.

We can live with taxes that make sense, but to raise Mammoth’s taxes to help the town raise money to alleviate its $29.5 million, 23-year MLLA judgment is a nonsense tax—a kneejerk tax, as it were.

There is a lot of talk among the citizenry about taxing ourselves. You can hear it from the Town Council Chambers to the beer aisle at Vons. The council itself rightly has the yips over any proposal to put a tax-raising measure before the voters, knowing as it does that Mammoth already is at a breaking point.

In its study of Mammoth’s economy early this year, FTI Capital Advisors said the Mammoth economy “has been stagnant, and on a near-term basis, in decline.”

“Nor,” the report goes on to say, “is recovery expected in the foreseeable future. Imposition of added taxes not serving to finance improvements in municipal services or investment in growth could only exacerbate these problems and make recovery that much more unlikely.”

And that was before the MLLA judgment.

Rather than put the voters’ backs (and wallets) up against the wall, we hope the council takes a long look at the establishment of a Business Investment District (BID) strategy.
There are whispers among the town’s power brokers that a BID might be the way to go. We wonder why it is not a loud demand.

A BID is a revitalization tool for commercial neighborhoods such as shopping malls and regional business districts. Established by law in the late 1980s and early 1990s, BIDs are public/private sector partnerships that perform a variety of services to improve the image of their cities and promote individual business districts. They also carry out economic development services by working to attract, retain, and expand businesses.

In our case, a small fee would be imposed on visitors in restaurants, lodging, the ski area, and so on. It talks like a tax, walks like a tax, and yet it is not a tax.

Given our situation, we implore the council to play with the idea of slicing a big chunk of Mammoth Lakes Tourism general fund dollars, and then open a BID to funnel money back into tourism.

We don’t have to make this up.

Nearly 60 cities in California use BIDs for tourism, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and, in a more apples-to-apples example, South Lake Tahoe.

To form a BID, the town would propose a new district by adopting a resolution of intention. Types of improvements and activities to be financed are specified at this time. Then, public notice must be provided and a public hearing will be held. If not protested by a majority of businesses, the BID is established and an advisory board is appointed.

Under law, Business Improvement District assessments must be directly proportional to the estimated benefit being received by the businesses upon which they are levied. In an area formed to promote tourism, only businesses that benefit from tourist visits may be assessed.

We urge the Town Council to look closely at this idea.

We also urge the citizenry to block any new tax initiative, no matter how appealing it might look in these dark, dark days of the MLLA Era.

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