Some utility taxes rising

Carson City supervisors on Thursday approved three of five proposed utility taxes increases they said were needed to fund maintenance projects.

Sewer taxes will go up 5 percent, water taxes 5 percent and storm drain taxes 10 percent. This will raise the average $30 residential utility bill about $2.30.

A large commercial user such as a restaurant will see bills go up about $42 a month starting July 1.

The tax increase will raise about $860,000 a year for utility work on the bypass, roads and water tanks.

Supervisors voted at a day of budget hearings to use $1.2 million of the city's $8.5 million reserve funds rather than raise gas taxes 0.5 percent and electric taxes 1 percent.

The taxes would have cost the average residential user about $18 a year.

The city might increase gas and electric taxes later if the economy gets better, supervisors said.

Raising all proposed taxes would have hurt many residents who already are suffering in the bad economy, Supervisor Shelly Aldean said.

"It's a difficult time right now and I think prudence would serve us well," she said.

A few residents told supervisors this is not the time for tax increases.

Richard Schneider of Carson City said most people's incomes won't be rising with the increased taxes.

"We're all in it together and we'll all get out of it together and we should do it without the gimmicks," he said.

Werner told supervisors he asked for the tax increases rather than tapping the reserve funds because he wanted the city to be ready if the economy gets worse.

Reserve funds will be important if the Nevada Legislature passes an unfunded mandate or if sales taxes, the city's largest source of revenue, continue to drop, he said.

A $5 million shortfall in the proposed $58 million general fund next year would force supervisors to make decisions that would "basically restructure the entire city," he said.

"At that point, it's everyone out of the pool," he said.

The city might have to lay off employees, cut services or renegotiate contracts if the economy continues to worsen, Werner said.

But the city will have difficulty renegotiating contracts unless the economy gets severely worse, said Supervisor Robin Williamson.

She said the city isn't close to the service cuts other local governments in Nevada have seen.

The city has contracts with six employee associations representing 450 of the city's 585 employees. Those employees are budgeted to get cost of living increases of between 2 percent and 6 percent. Half the associations have no merit pay increases scheduled. Half have scheduled merit pay increases of between 2 percent and 7.5 percent.

Unclassified employees, who include most department managers, will get a 1.75 percent cost of living increase and merit pay increases up to 5 percent.

Supervisors are scheduled to approve next year's final budget May 18.

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