While Mayor Marv Teixeira pushed an eight of a cent sales tax hike to extend the V&T Railway, Fire Chief Stacy Giomi and Sheriff Kenny Furlong called on voters to back a much more expensive property tax hike for public safety.
The forum at the Community Center was sponsored by the League of Women Voters. It drew only about 30 residents but more watched through cable access television.
The public safety question asks voters to support increasing Carson City property taxes 12.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Furlong said that would add $119 a year to his home, which has a net assessed value of $95,000 " about a third of the home's market value.
"This is about public safety in Carson City," Furlong said. "What level of services to we want to have."
He said surveys show the public wants safety improvements. He and Giomi said the ballot question will add people in both the fire department and sheriff's department to provide that service. For Giomi, it will provide a third paramedic ambulance and six medics to ride it and four seasonal firefighters. For Furlong, it will provide six gang enforcement officers, six for the jail and courts and five dispatchers.
But anti-tax activist and Assembly candidate John Wagner said the city hasn't grown and that a recession is the worst time to hit people with higher taxes. He said people like he are retired and on fixed incomes and can't afford higher taxes. He said the sheriff in particular should move people around to cover his needs instead of adding people.
Wagner said he doesn't believe the added paramedic staff would make any significant difference.
But Giomi said response time for ambulances has increased from 4 to 6.5 minutes since 1999 and that, in cases of heart attach and other medical emergencies, "we're talking about seconds."
Furlong said Carson residents are worried about growing gang problems and that added staff is the only way to get control of the situation.
Teixeira said the sales tax increase is an investment that will bond for $10 million to build the railway past Highway 50 at Mound House and into Brunswick Canyon. In return, he said Carson City will get 5 percent of gross ridership income for the next 99 years " an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 annually " to build parks, recreation, youth programs and other enhancements in the capital. The tax, he said, will sunset by 2020 or sooner but the revenues and other benefits of the train will continue on. And he said those benefits include all the tourist business the world's most famous train will bring and the revenue from sales, gaming, room and gas taxes they will generate.
And he said the railway would put Carson City on the map internationally as a tourist destination for hundreds of thousands of railroad fans.
But opponents Dan Mooney and Dave Campbell said they don't oppose the railway.
"We would very much like to see that railroad built," said Mooney.
But they said that revenue stream from the sales tax should be bonded and sold to private investors. Campbell said if private investors aren't interested, that is a clear sign the project won't work financially.
"There's no need for us to put taxpayer money into it," Campbell said.
Teixeira said private investors won't because they don't get a share of the tax benefits the V&T will generate where Carson City will.
But Campbell said if those investors aren't making money in five years, they'll take their rolling stock and go home, leaving the city with no railroad, just debt.
The two questions are on Carson City's November ballot.