Carson City tourism officials hope a $2.1 million contribution approved Friday will provide a steady revenue track for reconstruction of the historic Virginia & Truckee Railway.
But even with this hefty 20-year contribution, the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau knows that it needs more to completely fund the V&T's construction - about $26 million more.
To balance the cost, Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira is looking at increasing sales tax, an option opened to county governments by a law passed this legislative session to fund cultural and historic projects. The city estimates a one-eighth sales tax increase will bond up to $26 million over 20 years.
Even though the tourism board approved the contribution, which is funded by room tax revenue, it's contingent on the Carson City Board of Supervisors approving the additional one-eighth percent sales tax. This would bring Carson City's sales tax to 7.125 percent.
Teixeira called the tourism contribution "piece two of the three pieces needed to completely fund the V&T."
The third piece is $10 million attached to the federal transportation bill.
When completed, the reconstructed V&T Railway will run from Carson City to Gold Hill. The commission that heads the project plans to run its recently purchased $420,000 locomotive on the reconstructed tracks and then ride on the V&T Railroad line to Virginia City. The V&T Railroad is a tourist track operated by Bob Gray since 1976. The railway is expected to generate $16 million to $20 million annually in gross taxable revenue.
Granite Construction is the contractor for the first phase of the project from the old Gold Hill Depot, spanning the Overman Pit and then to American Flat.
In all, the 17-mile project will cost about $30 million. So far about $10 million has been spent planning it.
Building a case for the one-eighth sales tax increase, Teixeira said a steady revenue stream to secure all rights-of-way must be found now.
"We can't wait a couple of years to go out to a vote. We must have it now," he said.
City supervisors tried to get a sales tax increase for the V&T more than 10 years ago. The ballot question was narrowly defeated by voters.
"That was 10 years ago," Teixeira said. "We missed it by only 100 votes and it was a quarter cent. We didn't have any momentum then. This is a benefit. This isn't a bureaucracy we're funding. It's to build a national treasure that will drive considerable revenue that we will benefit from."
The sales tax increase would take up to $9 more a year out of the pocket of the average Carson City resident, Finance Director Tom Minton said.
He said the average Carson City household income is $37,000, which provides the family $600 a month in disposable income for all the things subject to sales tax. Minton said a family would pay an estimated 75 cents more a month with the sales tax increase. That comes to about $9 a year. A family with $800 disposable income a month would pay about $1 more a month in sales tax, which comes to $12 a year.
"I'm against all taxes, but on this project it's a must-do," Teixeira said.
Property tax rates can be raised only by ballot question. The mayor said he is also hoping for $10 million attached to the federal transportation bill. Teixeira said he'll take the sales tax increase to the board of supervisors only when he has a firm commitment from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the V&T will get the $10 million.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.