The director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency told Nevada lawmakers Wednesday he is increasingly worried about declining federal funds for the Tahoe Basin.
"Those grants are getting fewer and farther between, and that concerns us," John Singlaub told a joint subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.
He said the biggest piece is the Bush administration proposal to take money the U.S. Forest Service now gets from Southern Nevada federal land sales for the federal treasury. Although that plan isn't included in Senate or House versions of federal spending bills, if reinstated it could include the $300 million the federal government committed to spend at Lake Tahoe for environmental restoration and improvements under President Bill Clinton.
But Singlaub said the federal grants TRPA receives are also no longer predictable.
"Federal grants are a big part of our budget now," he said. "We can't count on them, although we're hopeful we'll get them."
Those include a wide variety of programs from the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, among others. Together, they now comprise more than 34 percent of TRPA's budget.
"Most of them are going down, at least in the president's budget," said Singlaub.
As a result, the total TRPA budget he presented to lawmakers Wednesday decreases from $11.1 million this fiscal year to $10 million next year and $10.3 million the following year.
That is despite increases in the requested funding from California and Nevada. The budget now contains $1.6 million from Nevada and $3.3 million from California. Nevada's share would increase in the next two years to $1.8 million and $2.1 million. California's would rise to $3.7 million and $4.2 million.
The figures are based on a formula established to operate TRPA under which California pays two times what Nevada pays.
Singlaub said his agency board plans to send a letter to the Bush administration and the California and Nevada congressional delegations this spring urging them not to cut funding for environmental and other programs at Lake Tahoe.
Singlaub said TRPA also wants the two states to consider a number of enhancements to the budget proposal, including 8 percent pay raises to bring TRPA employee salaries to the same level as state workers in Nevada and California receive. He said they haven't had an increase since 2000. That would cost $106,117 a year.
He said they need $600,000 each year to update the regional plan in the Tahoe Basin and $900,000 one time to buy and install an automated parcel and permitting system. Singlaub said answering questions about permits now occupies about 20 percent of staff time. He said the computerized system would probably save most of what it costs in staff time.
Lawmakers said they will consider the budget later.