A plan for Carson City improvement projects and the first step toward a city sales-tax hike to finance them won 4-1 approval from the Board of Supervisors on Thursday.
The action came after lengthy board discussion that had been preceded by 2 hours and 25 minutes of testimony, pro and con, over whether to build an athletic center, an animal shelter and do street-scape improvements in business corridors all along Carson Street, including downtown, as well as on East William Street. The motion added improvements at the Community Center to the multiple-projects plan.
“I’m a firm believer that the long-term sustainability of our community requires this,” said Mayor Robert Crowell just prior to the vote on the sales tax portion, which would tack one-eighth of a penny on and cost consumers $12.50 on each $10,000 in taxable goods purchased. “These projects are an investment that we need to do today.”
Whether they will be done, however, still may hinge on a second vote by the board at another meeting. A super-majority of four votes is required and the board takes another crack in a final tally on the tax ordinance that likely comes in two weeks. Supervisor John McKenna, who has always advocated a vote of the people and did so again Thursday, has until then to ponder whether he sticks with board support or changes.
Supervisor Jim Shirk cast the dissenting vote on both the expenditure plan and the tax hike after he proposed a different alternative in a motion that died for lack of a second. He said his plan envisioned funding projects without a general tax hike. It involved using redevelopment authority money, increasing the lodging tax, earmarking a penny or two from existing property taxes for a couple of the projects, and other changes.
“We’re double taxing citizens,” he asserted. “I have trouble double-taxing people.”
“I don’t see it as double taxation,” replied the mayor.
Shirk also objected that bonding would make the various projects cost $35 million or more.
Supervisors Brad Bonkowski and Karen Abowd were steadfast in their ongoing support for the plan.
Bonkowski ticked off several items he said the city will get from proceeding, among them a much-needed animal shelter for safety and other benefits, a multi-purpose athletic center that would be “an economic driver” that will help put heads in beds for the lodging industry, Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalks, and sales tax revenues that are 40 percent paid for by visitors.
Abowd made a disclosure statement about her co-ownership of Adele’s restaurant and said it wouldn’t involve a conflict, so she would vote. She said the projects are aimed at “refreshing our appeal” in the city and would “increase our revenue stream” by helping spur future economic development. Her husband and business partner, Charlie Abowd, earlier had testified in favor of the plan.
Testifying against it, and delivering an outburst after the tax vote, was Linda Barnett, director of operations at Eagle Hospitality and Adventures.
“When are you going to think about the taxpayers?” she said. She decried previous decisions to use city money on the Virginia and Truckee Railway tourist train and accused this board of similar action. “Who do we go to when it doesn’t work?”
Bonkowski voiced respect for Barnett’s opinion but said if she wanted to hold him accountable, “vote me out of office.”
“Done deal,” she shot back.
Lisa Schuette, head of the private sector Carson Animal Services Initiative that is seeking donations for the shelter project, and Dana Lee Fruend, president of the Downtown 20/20 business group pushing that business corridor’s improvements, had testified for the projects earlier and followed Barnett to the podium to thank the board.
Witnesses galore earlier testified on each side, with many opponents seeking a vote of the people and proponents urging support to promote progress. Among them was Alejandra Leon, Western Nevada College president of the associated students there, who said she is a “future resident of this town” because she enjoys it here. However, the 20-year-old said many young people think it needs a change, which the board should embrace.
“It’s outdated,” she said. “It’s boring.”
“I’m a firm believer that the long-term sustainability of our community requires this.”
Mayor Robert Crowell