The Fire Department does not need more money to fight fires (a property problem). It needs more money for the paramedic service (a people problem).
The Fire Chief says Big Bear has changed in the past 15 years, increasing demands on his Department. That’s true, but the permanent population, already paying through property taxes, has increased very little. Increased demands, therefore, must come from visitors (verifiable by the blaring sirens every weekend).
Proponents say 53 percent of new taxes would come from “commercial and visitors.” The truth is that none of those taxes would come from visitors. An increase in the city’s TOT tax won’t be voted on until November, and will apply to only overnighters, not to daytrippers who are not hesitant to dial 911 when they get lost, stuck, or hurt.
The March vote is entirely for increased property taxes. Some commercial properties may be able to pass the tax along to their tenants or customers if lack of competition allows them to raise prices. But the tax is there, even if the customers disappear.
The visitor would pay his fair share if we enacted a “resort” tax, collected at businesses frequented by tourists, including the daytripper. Other jurisdictions already apply such taxes.
A resort tax could be increased or decreased as needs or revenue sources change. Instead, we are being asked to approve a Mello-Roos tax, which will never go away and can be only increased but never decreased. I think we can come up with something better than that.