VIRGINIA CITY - Storey County commissioners are proposing a one-fourth of one percent sales tax increase to fund improvements for water facilities and schools.
District 2 Commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess initiated the proposal, which would boost the county's rate to 7-1/4 percent.
"The schools are broke right now," Hess said, noting schools have had a number of layoffs, and basic programs, like the hot lunch program, are being eliminated. Middle School Principal Gil Gladding invited him to tour the schools, and that is when he decided to initiate the proposal.
According to the proposed ordinance, the money will be used to finance a $22,000-roof repair at Hugh Gallagher Elementary School, and a $220,000-steel-roof replacement at Virginia City Middle School and Virginia City High School.
Those repairs, along with the addition of two classrooms to the high school, are in progress, financed by a five-year, interest-free loan from the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex.
The quarter-cent sales tax hike, together with taxes generated from the complex, would help repay that loan, which Hess said totalled about $320,000.
Sales tax revenues are also earmarked for a $1 million reservoir waterline replacement. The waterline improvement will be partly financed from grants. Matching funds are required, and would come from in-kind labor and material as well as the proposed sales tax increase.
Designed by a German hydraulic engineer and built in 1873, the system brings water from Marlette Lake through Washoe Valley and into Storey County reservoirs. Repairs to the line made in 1952 have proved inadequate and that portion now needs to be replaced. Parts of the original pipe are still in use.
"We're paying the highest water rates in state," Hess said, noting his residential bill runs more than $100 monthly. He and other consumers are paying for the water leaking from the aging pipe.
The problem is compounded by the fact that leaks can be difficult to find and almost impossible to fix in the winter when the pipe is covered by heavy snows.
Resident comments are encouraged, but the proposed ordinance won't be on the ballot.
"The Legislature allows a quarter-cent sales tax to go specifically for a limited number of potential projects," Commissioner Chuck Haynes said.
He referred to Nevada Revised Statute 377.B, which states that counties with a population of less than 100,000 are allowed to introduce an additional one-fourth of one-percent sales tax to partially fund water facilities and school renovations, and Storey County qualifies.
Passage of this measure will require a second reading at the county commissioners' meeting at the Courthouse on Aug. 15. If approved, the proposal will be published twice in a newspaper before it is considered law.
The measure has a sunset clause and would expire on Jan.1, 2011, unless specifically repealed before that date.
In other business:
-- A second reading of Ordinance No. 171 adding basic powers to Tahoe Reno Industrial Center General Improvement District expands the powers of the District to include water and sewer services. There has been no protest filed and the ammendment was unanimously approved by the commissioners.
-- Storey County reinstated its original county seal, first used in1861 when Nevada was a territory. According to researcher Doug Walling, Storey County was one of the original nine counties formed when Nevada split from Utah Territory.
The seal, lost for years, was found in a private collection on an 1869 Storey County water bond.
"I think this is a very important day for Storey County," Walling said. " We're the only county with an original seal."