Supervisors OK wording for sales tax ballot question

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The Carson City Board of Supervisors approved modified wording Thursday for the ballot question asking whether voters back a sales tax increase to build the library and plaza that make up the scaled-down City Center Project.

The unanimous yes vote came after a lengthy rehash of the issues and the battles over the past two years with opponents of the project.

In the end, the board made several concessions to the opponents, who have collected signatures to put a separate question on the ballot that would give voters a chance to weigh in against use of public money to build the library.

Chief among those concessions was allowing bond money to pay for major maintenance but banning its use for any ongoing operational costs.

"I think it's irresponsible not to set aside some money for maintenance," said Supervisor Shelly Aldean.

Lori Bagwell, one of the leaders of the opposition, said she agreed with allowing money to pay for maintenance.

"I absolutely agree with that," she said. "If you can't maintain it, why (would) you build it?"

Library Director Sarah Jones said she was fine with barring the use of the money for operational costs.

"I can operate with the typical budget," she said. "But I do not have any maintenance money in my budget. That's why I need a new roof and don't have one" on the existing library.

At Aldean's insistence, the board instructed City Manager Larry Werner to include language allowing the board to use redevelopment money to offset part of the bond money and, potentially, allow the board to avoid imposing the entire quarter-cent sales tax that's been proposed to fund the project.

The reworded measure would allow the board to impose "up to" the entire quarter-cent sales tax, instead of mandating that all of it be imposed.

The explanation on the ballot will specifically state that there would be no increase in the redevelopment assessment.

Aldean said that could save taxpayers money over the life of the bonds.

In addition, the ballot question is described as "advisory," rather than binding, because that is required in state law. Werner explained to opponents who wanted it to be binding that that would require imposition of the tax, while an advisory measure would allow the board to reduce or eliminate the tax if voters approve.

Mayor Bob Crowell pointed out that, if voters reject the question, the tax can't be imposed by the board.

The quarter-cent tax would generate an estimated $1.9 million a year - enough to cover the estimated $28 million cost of the library project. Werner said that is the estimate in current economic conditions. He said that as the economy improves, the revenue generated should increase.

A spokesman for the Nugget casino, adjacent to the City Center site, also told the board that Nugget President Steve Neighbors will provide the city with a deed donating the land for the project in the near future and that he will place $5 million in a certificate of deposit to ensure construction of the parking garage that the Nugget wants included in the project.


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