Candidates take on ballot questions

Fire and sheriff's departments likely need the extra staff that would be hired through one ballot initiative, according to many candidates for Carson City mayor, but say another initiative that would raise sales taxes for the V&T Railway asks too much from voters.

The city has invested millions of dollars in the tourist railroad that will run from Virginia City to Carson City, said locksmith Steve McClung, but it should be finished by private funds.

"I mean, everyone is hurting now," said McClung, one of six candidates for mayor. "They don't want more taxes piled on them."

His life was saved by a paramedic after an artery in his heart burst several years ago, however, and he said the experience helps him appreciate how important the public safety ballot question is.

"You just don't pick services out of trees," he said. "They have to come from somewhere."

Both ballot questions would raise taxes, but in different ways.

The V&T plan would give $10 million to the V&T tourist train project through a one-eighth cent sales tax in exchange for 5 percent of ticket sales over 99 years. The city has given $21 million of the expected $55 million cost.

Mayor Marv Teixeira, who will not seek a fourth term, has said he expects the plan to cost the average resident about $12 a year and pay for what the city's already given well after the sales tax sunsets around 2020.

The proposed property tax for public safety would raise money for staff that the sheriff's and fire departments say are critical for public safety.

Funds would be raised through a 12.6-cent tax on every $100 of assessed property and any extra money collected through the tax would go to general public safety.

School board member and mayoral candidate Bob Crowell said he supports the public-safety plan because the city needs to keep people safe and create an environment where new residents will feel comfortable.

He said he won't know if he'll advocate for the V&T ballot question until he learns more about the business plan.

Taxpayers should not have to pay anything more for a tourist attraction, said candidate and podiatrist Sean Lehmann, and the project could be finished through alternatives, such as bonds that could be paid off by train profits.

He said he is more likely to support the public safety question, but hasn't decided if he will yet. The sheriff's department did recently open a new multi-million-dollar building, he said.

Pastor Ken Haskins and Realtor Jim Shirk have both said a mayor should follow and support voters' decision on the ballot questions.

Haskins said he thinks the mayor should help raise private money for the V&T Railway, whether the question is approved or not.

Shirk said he needs to analyze the questions more before he decides how he will vote.

"I believe in both of these cases no one could make a determination at this time as to how they would be for or against either ballot issues," he said in an e-mail.

Entrepreneur and candidate Pete Hansell, however, said there is not enough evidence to support either ballot question.

The management of the V&T project so far has been "ridiculous," said Hansell, who pointed to the rising costs and delayed completion time.

For the public safety initiative, the fire and sheriff's departments haven't proved that the staff they're asking for will actually help fix their problems, he said.

Most importantly, he said, the plan has failed to answer the question: "What's it going to give me?"

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

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