As Carson City officials prepare the city’s budget, members of the Regional Transportation Commission approved tentative budgets Wednesday that will shape road planning, public transit and street maintenance in the future.
The vote was 4-1 to approve the budgets, and the commission’s recommendation will go to the Board of Supervisors. RTC member Lucia Maloney voted against the recommendation. She confirmed with the Appeal she wanted to fully support a specific supplemental request for the public transit department, which oversees Jump Around Carson.
Transportation staff had budgeted $504,800 in city general fund revenue to use for local matches to federal grants. Requiring various match levels, federal grants make up most of the transit budget, more than $1.9 million. However, facing rising costs — from potentially higher driver wages to increased costs of fuel and maintenance — staff submitted a supplemental request for an additional $284,400 in general fund money that could boost local matches and attached federal funding.
RTC members agreed JAC is essential.
“It is a service that is vital to the city,” said RTC member Gregory Novak.
At the same time, Mayor Lori Bagwell, who chairs RTC, was concerned about taking more money from the general fund even if she appreciated staff’s long-term planning.
“I completely understand where you’re coming from,” she said. “But I’m trying to balance it across the entire city.”
Bagwell pointed to a lower number for the supplemental request, $125,000, as recommend by the city’s finance department. That number and some undesignated project funds could get JAC through the next fiscal year while providing all services, she said.
Except for Maloney, RTC members agreed with Bagwell and included the additional $125,000 in their recommendation.
The RTC also approved tentative budgets for the regional transportation and street maintenance departments, which rely heavily on local fuel taxes. In an email to the Appeal, Transportation Manager Chris Martinovich said fuel tax revenues are expected to decrease slightly with the exception of the diesel tax.
“In general, the 2024 tentative budget is projecting a slight decrease in fuel revenue as compared to where 2023 is estimated to end,” he said.
For the transportation department, which oversees planning and roadway projects, gasoline tax revenue is projected to drop from $4.37 million for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, to 4.32 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
Diesel tax revenue for fiscal year 2024 — arising from a 5-cent-per-gallon tax approved by voters in November — is expected to match 2022 levels at a minimum, about $517,400. Estimates show the diesel tax generating $615,205 for the transportation department in the current fiscal year.
“I expect the trend for diesel sales to continue to increase, especially as new businesses and industries move to Northern Nevada,” said Martinovich.
For the street maintenance department, which oversees maintenance of existing roadway, sales tax revenue next year is projected to remain the same at about $4.08 million. Fuel tax revenue that supports the department, however, is expected to dip. Besides state-mandated fuel taxes, the street maintenance department gets 1 cent per gallon of gasoline, a tax enacted in 1987. That revenue is projected to drop from $494,721 this year to $482,268 the next fiscal year.
“Long term, I generally expect gasoline sales to flatten over time as cars get more fuel efficient and more alternative fuel vehicles replace gasoline powered vehicles,” said Martinovich. “It’s important that as the vehicle fleet changes, the city and state continue to look for new, sustainable sources of transportation funding.”
Related to road funding, RTC members also approved amending a contract with Hansford Economic Consulting, increasing the amount of the contract by $46,310. The new not-to-exceed amount for the contract is $96,275.
Hansford was hired in 2021 to explore and study road maintenance funding in the city. Their work is anticipated to be completed by December 2024, according to a staff report.
Hansford has posited a new .25 percent sales tax and general improvement districts as ways to better fund neighborhood roads, not regional roads that qualify for federal funding. In February, the Board of Supervisors expressed support for the former option – likely to appear on the 2024 ballot — but more skepticism of GIDs, which would involve special assessments on properties.
“We’re going to be looking at multiple kinds of cost-allocation methodologies associated with the GID, but also a big part of this is the public workshop component,” Public Works Deputy Director Dan Stucky said of the amended contract with Hansford.
In other action:
• RTC members approved roughly $1.2 million in construction contracts, including $305,800 to West Coast Paving Inc. for ADA improvements at two intersections along Desatoya Drive; approximately $484,955 to Intermountain Slurry Seal for pavement preservation and some curb modification on Medical Parkway; and approximately $426,808 to Sierra Nevada Construction for pavement preservation and some curb upgrades on Mountain Street between King Street and Winne Lane.