Paul McGrath: More accountability needed in use of gas tax for roads
August 30, 2014
This request is directed to the Regional Transportation Commission of Carson City for funding public works to repair streets in the southeastern part of town. Notably roads and streets south of Koontz Lane in which funding had been approved by a special tax levied by the Board of Supervisors to ensure the Carson freeway be built.
Section 5 of the Carson City Mini Code provides, “In addition to the tax imposed pursuant to paragraph 1 of this section (CCMC 11.20.050), there is hereby imposed an additional tax of $0.05 per gallon on all motor vehicle fuel sold, distributed or used in the manner and within the time prescribed by this chapter. Upon the effective date of the tax imposed pursuant to this paragraph the total tax collected under this chapter and under authority of Chapter 373 of NRS will be a total of $0.09. This additional tax is subject to all the conditions and requirements of this chapter and Chapter 373 of NRS and all the provisions of Chapter 11.20 which are required to be included in any ordinance enacted under Chapter 373 of the NRS and hereby incorporated into this section by this reference. Through this paragraph the Board of Supervisors expresses its intent the revenue generated by the tax imposed by this paragraph be used for the design and construction of the Carson City freeway, or any arterial, collector, roadway or alternative route related to the movement of traffic through Carson City. The $0.05 tax shall continue so long as the Board of Supervisors conclude that the proceeds thereof shall be needed for the stated street or road projects provided herein.”
During the mid-1980s, a couple of ballot issues pertaining to increases in fuel taxes were introduced and approved by the voters. One for sales tax of one-fourth-cent, and another for one cent. A couple of other fuel tax issues were disapproved in the 1990s by the voters.
In 2004 when the Carson City freeway began construction, an ordinance was introduced amending Carson City Municipal Code 11.20.050 “to provide for the extension of the motor vehicle fuel tax and allow use of the fuel tax for Regional Transportation projects and other matters related properly thereto; fiscal impact: The five-cent fuel tax will be extended to fund phase two of the Carson City freeway improvements and other Regional Transportation projects from the anticipated sunset date of 2012 for an indefinite period of time.”
No wonder requests from the public for road maintenance go unanswered. The funding for maintenance has been hidden and used on projects that have higher priorities as determined by the RTC.
This request to the RTC is to comply with the provisions of the “original” authorization given when the $0.05 tax was imposed. The back-door approach to increase fuel taxes without voter approval was not consistent with good government, even though the ordinance that amended the original was duly voted upon by the Board of Supervisors (on a cold December day, right before Christmas when no one was watching on amending capital projects in Carson City).
Another suggestion for the RTC is a public accounting be made on the revenues and expenditures of this special fuel tax. Just as an example of one fueling location in the south part of Carson City that generates 20,000 to 22,000 gallons of fuel dispensed each day during the summer period, and 16,000 to 18,000 per day during the winter months equates to quite a few dollars in taxes on a monthly basis, times 10 years (2004-2014). By doing the math, the necessary road maintenance in the southeastern part of town could be easily accomplished, in addition to “other arterials, collector, roadway or alternative routes” impacted by the Carson City freeway that was addressed in the original tax approval.
You can be assured a number of property owners and other taxpayers in the south part of town (and other locations) would be willing to petition the Board of Supervisors to use the special tax to make all necessary road repairs throughout Carson City before other projects growth brings are approved.
It’s predicted when the city is in need of revenues, it will have to look elsewhere other than the voters for new revenues. The back door approval of this road tax should haunt the city for a number of years to come before creditability is restored. This public notification would not have happened, and no one would know the difference if the city had just complied with the special tax law and used the revenues to repair existing streets.
Paul McGrath, a retired Carson City sheriff, has lived in Carson City since 1955.