Mammoth Council Weighs Budget Shortfall

Budget woes continue to grow for the Town of Mammoth Lakes. With Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, being down 20 percent in January as well as sales tax taking a hit from what was projected, the Town is looking toward a $1.3 million shortfall by the end of the fiscal year.

In an effort to plan ahead, Town staff has begun to deal with this potential shortfall now.

Right now we are only short $200,000 but if the trends continue we will be looking at the $1.3 million, explained Town Finance Director Brad Koehn.

This shortfall would roughly be made up of $150,000 shortfall from sales tax and over $900,000 shortfall in TOT.

The issue once again sparked the discussion of collecting TOT from illegal rentals in town, and Councilmember John Eastman said that in order for the ordinance that punishes TOT violators to be taken more seriously, it needs to have more teeth in it. Eastman suggested jail time, but the Town Attorney Peter Tracy explained that it would be up to the Countys District Attorney to determine whether or not that was appropriate. Tracy did state, however, that the Town could add additional fees on top of the state fees for punishment. The state fees run anywhere from $100 to $500 per occurrence.

For now the Town is dealing with the budget shortfall by working with their employee groups to make more cutbacks. Council approved a resolution that stated that Town employees would take another furlough day each month, putting the total up to two per month. Cost of living adjustments will not be given through June 2010, and the Police Department has agreed to forego their holiday pay for fiscal year 2009/2010.

Former Mayor and longtime Mammoth resident Rick Wood, who has been telling Council that a budget crisis was coming since one year ago this month, stated that while he applauded staff and the employees for their efforts, he didnt think it was enough. Wood felt that the Town needed to reach out to community members for their input on how to get through this dreary time.

Council approved the resolution for cutbacks 5-0. Mayor Wendy Sugimura then asked Council to continue to forego their stipends throughout the next fiscal year. Councilmember Skip Harvey went one step further and asked that all department heads at the Town begin to reduce their budgets by 10 percent. He cited a line item that had come before Council earlier in the evening during the Register of Demands where approximately $1,500.00 had been spent to buy employees Town jackets.

Maybe we can just start making name tags for our employees when they have to be out in public representing the Town, he added in response to Community Development Director Mark Wardlaws excuse that the jackets were needed for employees to be recognized in public as Town employees when they were working within the community.

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