Tax could fund more than immediate needs

A pared-down property tax proposal designed to hire firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement positions identified as critical by some Carson City officials could bring in $20,000 to $35,000 more a year than the city needs to fund those positions.

The plan, if approved by the city and voters, would raise property tax rates about 121Ú2 cents to hire the additional positions, identified as immediate needs by the fire and sheriff's departments. The extra money would be available to hire additional staff in the future, but could not be used for other purposes. Supervisors are expected to vote at their meeting Thursday whether to put the ballot question in front of voters in November.

The reason there would be additional money is because the amount the city collects in property taxes each year - a percent of which the city would take for public safety - is growing faster than the annual increase in pay for paramedics, firefighters and deputies.

Pay for these employees, for instance, rose about 35 to 40 percent between 1999 and 2007. The amount the city collected in property taxes, however, rose more than 50 percent during the same time.

A state-wide 2005 property tax cap for many homeowners has not slowed this rate.

The $2.3 million the tax increase would raise in its first year - trimmed down from a $6 million-a-year proposal rejected last month by supervisors - is needed soon for critical positions, some city staff have said.

"The sheriff and fire chief were interviewed and asked to select the most immediate critical issues facing the community; those that, if not funded, could pose an immediate threat to the safety of our citizens and employees," City Manager Larry Werner said in a report to supervisors.

A specific number of paramedics, gang unit officers, deputies and dispatchers "of utmost importance" are named in the report. Seasonal wildland firefighters do not have a specific number, but do have a specific amount they will cost in the first year and percent of property tax rate they will need.

Werner said in an interview that if more staff is hired with the additional money, it would be because they are needed in areas clearly named in the ballot question. If they are not needed, he said, the city could choose not to collect the additional money.

This kind of tax has been used several times in the state, said Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, but local governments must make sure the money goes to the areas specified in the ballot question that voters approved.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.


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