Carson City sales-tax hike again clearing hurdles

City government’s sales-tax increase went through Carson City’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday like a not-so-instant replay called same song, second verse.

Voting 4-1 with Supervisor Jim Shirk again dissenting, the board revisited the issue to adopt a plan of expenditure and give a second stamp of initial approval to an ordinance raising the city sales tax one-eighth of a penny to help finance capital projects. Final action on the tax hike is a foregone conclusion in two weeks. Because it is a tax hike, a supermajority of four votes was required.

Because public notification could not be proved, previous approval actions Feb. 20 and March 6 were voided and the same song, second verse strains are playing out now. The tax-hike provisions attracted testimony from many of the usual suspects, both proponents and opponents. Among the opponents were those against changing downtown traffic patterns.

“Our traffic in front of our businesses will go down,” said Daryl Reedy of the Arby’s fast-food outlet just south of downtown at 1222 S. Carson St. “That’s a given.”

He was speaking of plans to narrow Carson Street traffic downtown from two lanes north and south to just one lane in each direction, though those details would still require board action later.

Reedy and other opponents were vocal in asking for a vote of the people on the tax hike, which would raise about $1 million annually and finance bonded indebtedness to change streetscape amenities in business corridors, possibly narrow the traffic lanes on Carson Street downtown, as well as construct or improve buildings. A multipurpose athletic center, an animal shelter and Community Center improvement projects are planned.

Chris Carver said Carson City residents don’t want the projects or the debt associated with them. Up to $17 million in bonds would be issued, serving that debt by using revenue from the $1 million raised yearly by the sales-tax hike. He said revisiting the plan due to the notification glitch gave board members “a second chance to do the right thing” and at least allow a vote of the people.

Representatives of Downtown 20/20 and the Carson Animal Shelter Initiative (CASI) showed up to counter the opponents. Doreen Mack of Lofty Expressions, an interior-decor business, said that as founder of the 20/20 group, she was urging the board to stay the course.

“Without a downtown, we have nothing,” she said. She noted the recent recession and urged the city to move forward, adding, “We are starting to climb out of this hole.”

Chuck Crittenden, vice chairman of CASI, reminded board members that animal shelter supporters are raising donations to help city government build a new shelter.

“We’re going to raise a great amount of money and hand it to Carson City,” he said. “We’re passionate about this.”

Before reaffirming support, the board majority had to reject proposals that Shirk introduced to have an advisory vote of the people in November, use the one-eighth-penny hike in sales tax only for building an animal shelter, or finance most of the planned projects by other means.

Supervisor John McKenna supported Shirk on the vote-of-the-people proposal, but rejection of that required just three votes. They were supplied by Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisors Karen Abowd and Brad Bonkowski. Bonkowski and Abowd said the issues had been vetted via town hall meetings and public hearings.


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