Property taxes prove unpopular in Carson

Supporters of a ballot initiative that would raise property taxes to hire public safety staff will have to overcome a history of almost unanimous defeats of similar plans.

The plan to hire a gang unit, ambulance team, dispatchers, jail deputies and seasonal firefighters is a scaled-back version of a larger plan rejected by supervisors. Carson City voters, however, have turned down six out of seven property tax proposals since 1988.

These proposals make up more than a quarter of all ballot questions in the past 22 years.

Property tax increases for a zoo, transportation, city operations and a public safety building were all turned down by a margin of almost 2 to 1 or more.

The vote was closer for two 1998 property tax initiatives. Plans to increase library funding and hire firefighters both lost by several hundred votes or more.

"I don't think people (in Carson City) like property taxes," said Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, who supervises elections, "and they don't trust government too much."

A property tax for a new fire station, however, was approved in the early 1990s.

Fire Chief Stacey Giomi said he knows what the history of property tax initiatives is, but he will try to explain his department's situation and give voters the facts.

The department's response time to emergencies, among other problems, is getting longer, but "I don't see it as my job to convince (voters) to raise taxes," Giomi said.

The property tax initiative would be used to hire employees the fire and sheriff's departments have said are critical to public safety through a 12.6-cent tax on every $100 of assessed property.

The owner of a property assessed at $100,000, for instance, would have to pay $126 a year for the tax.

Initiatives to raise sales taxes have been a little more popular. Funding for roads and parks was approved, but the same for the V&T Railway and storm drain services was turned down.

The best way to get an initiative passed, said Supervisor Pete Livermore, is have the tax in effect for a limited amount of time or to show how it will continuously benefit voters.

Livermore worked on the 1996 parks initiative and said people supported it because there was a plan that showed how it would specifically help improve facilities and manage open space.

The supervisor, however, has opposed the public safety initiative as not detailed enough.

School bonds have been the most popular initiatives over the past 20 years. Five out of six have passed.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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