The same week Carson City voters supported a diesel tax for local road improvements, a new report offered future funding options to bridge a remaining $21 million funding gap for city roadways.
As of Thursday, 12,448 people voted to continue the 5-cent-per-gallon diesel tax, compared to 8,078 casting votes against.
First approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2020, the tax was scheduled to sunset at the end of this year without voter approval. It has raised roughly half a million dollars a year in funding for road improvements, adding to the city’s total annual funding of approximately $4.5 million.
“I am so pleased that the voters of Carson City recognized the need to continue this tax to improve our road system,” Carson City Mayor Lori Bagwell said Wednesday. “Also, that they have faith in their Board of Supervisors to spend these funds wisely.”
Carson City Supervisor Stacey Giomi also was optimistic but noted there is more work to be done.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the results of that,” Giomi said Wednesday. “I am glad our community has realized that solving our road problems is going to take the whole community. It’s going to take some hard thinking and hard work on the part of everyone to decide how we can make it work in a palatable way for everyone. The diesel tax is a good first step in trying to solve the road problems.”
Thursday, Carson City Transportation Manager Chris Martinovich mirrored supervisors’ outlook.
“The ‘yes’ vote for the continuation of the diesel tax was positive for Carson City,” Martinovich said. “While a small part in the overall roadway budget, the passage means we can continue to use these funds to repair and reconstruct our roads and other roads-related features, all areas of critical need.”
Even with the continued tax, however, the city still faces an annual $21 million gap between funding and maintenance needs. This week, city staff presented findings of a new report to the Regional Transportation Commission.
Developed in consultation with Hansford Economic Consulting, the report says homeowners paying $50 a month could significantly bridge the road-funding gap. It explores several new funding mechanisms, including a new quarter-cent sales tax, the continuance of the one-eighth-cent V&T infrastructure sales tax, scheduled to sunset in 2027, and general improvement districts with special assessments on properties.
The GID option is estimated to generate the most revenue: $12.2 million a year. That compares to an estimated $4 million a year for the new sales tax, and an estimated $1 million from continuing the V&T tax. GID parcel charges for snow removal and street lighting would add another $800,000.
“GIDs can be set up to cover a wide variety of roads and road-related tasks, possibly including snow removal and street lighting,” said Martinovich. “Per Nevada Revised Statute, if snow removal and street lighting are part of the GID, then parcel charges are the method of collection. We are still very preliminary. The actual scope of the GID and method of assessment are both undetermined at this point as this is only one of the mechanisms being considered.”
Martinovich said unlike a sales tax, the Board of Supervisors could enact GIDs.
“Per the initial research we have done, the only mechanism that requires voter approval is the new quarter-cent sales tax under NRS 377A,” he said. “Other mechanisms can be enacted upon Board of Supervisors approval, at their discretion.”
According to the report, even if the aforementioned funding sources were approved, a $3 million funding gap would remain. However, the city consistently pursues federal grants. Federal grants can be used for the city’s regional roads but not neighborhood streets, which make up the majority of the street network.
“The gap ($3 million) is not specific to a certain type of road,” said Martinovich. “It was an illustrative example of the one possible way to ‘fill’ the pavement funding gap. The city has generally been successful in getting federal grants, and we hope to continue to be successful going forward, but these grants are competitive and not guaranteed.”
The estimated cost to Carson City homeowners for the new funding sources would be $50 a month. That would include $11.50 a month for the new sales tax, $35 a month for the GID special assessment, and $3.50 a month for the parcel charge.
To help residents understand the challenges of road funding, the city recently developed a new website, https://www.carson.org/government/departments-g-z/public-works/preserve-carson-city-roads.
According to site, more than 60 percent of larger regional roads (collectors and arterials) are faring well, in good or satisfactory condition. Local neighborhood roads, which make up 71 percent of the city’s total roadways, are faring significantly worse. Less than 30 percent of local neighborhood roads are in the good or satisfactory category. More than 45 percent are in poor condition or worse.
Martinovich said report findings will go supervisors sometime next year.
“There is some additional research that is needed following input by the RTC,” he said. “The item will likely be brought to the Board of Supervisors during the first half of 2023.”