Big crowd offers tax-hike thoughts
January 30, 2014
An overflow crowd ran overtime at a Wednesday evening town hall in which pro and con arguments were presented on a Carson City sales-tax hike for capital projects.
The third and final town hall, held to gather public input for the Board of Supervisors before they take up the issue next month, packed the Sierra Room at the Community Center and ran beyond the 6-8 p.m. time frame city government had alloted for a workshop and public comment period.
The plan envisions a one-eighth-of-a-penny hike in city sales tax for four business corridor street-improvement projects, a multipurpose athletic center and an animal shelter.
"You cannot tax a community into prosperity," said Fred Brown, who asserted taxes go up but wages in private-sector jobs don't.
"Raise the ante so we can live in a town we can be proud of," countered Doreen Mack, founder of Downtown 20/20, one of the groups backing the plan.
"How many businesses are backing this?" asked Carol Howell.
Community Development Director Lee Plemel replied it wasn't a particularly large number, but determining business and resident support or opposition was in part the purpose behind the town halls. That didn't deter Howell's assessment of business involvement.
"They're push is all based on hopes and dreams," she contended. "There are just too many facts that we don't know."
The business corridor plans are downtown, on East William Street, and on North and South Carson Street outside the downtown's core.
Chris Bayer, a supporter, said the plan's details aren't complete because that is how the process works.
"It's not perfect," he said. But he called it better to work together and move forward. He said either Carson City takes action now that the freeway bypass is nearing completion or city residents keep obsessing on details of change.
"I pray that we take the plunge, risky as it seems," he concluded.
Some opponents blasted going to two lanes rather than four on Carson Street downtown and one questioned roundabouts proposed for that street. It was Don Leonard who raised that issue and questioned the price tag for the downtown Carson Street portion of the $29 million in projects. He denigrated spending $6.7 million "to destroy a good street."
Mack defended downtown street changes to make it walkable and promote business there. She recalled when she was young there were two lanes and a lively street scene.
"When it went to four lanes, it drastically killed the downtown," she said.
Some opponents attacked the $4 million animal shelter proposal, a few labeling it a Taj Mahal.
Gene Munnings didn't use that term, but he did question what he said was the $372-per-square-foot price tag attached.
Private donations are already being raised, however, in the hope the city will approve the plan and then part of the shelter cost can be defrayed with such contributions.
Lisa Schuette, who heads the Carson Animal Services Initiative doing fundraising, countered the Taj Mahal charge and said constructing a shelter is different from building a house. Other CASI backers joined her in urging support to replace the current 1960s-era shelter.
It was particularly the tax hike, however, that kept opponents coming to the microphone.
"An increase in sales tax does not guarantee an increase in revenue," said Bill Horn, who identified himself as a North Carson business owner. "The long-term effect will be damaging to Carson City."
Several people for the plan wanted to add a project to promote culture, among them Eugene Paslov of the city's Cultural Commission. He said some of the tax revenue should be "set aside for the arts."
City government said the city sales-tax hike impact on consumers would amount to $12.50 per $10,000 in taxable sales.
When the city's governing board takes up the issue on Feb. 20, it will discuss and could decide on an expenditure plan. That is a requirement of state law that identifies projects included and sets the proposal for the duration unless the board later goes through a similar process to alter it. Approval requires four votes from the five-member board, a supermajority, before proceeding with the tax hike and plan.