Supervisors explore sales tax for neighborhood roads

Carson resident Aiden Bailey, center, was awarded the Medal of Commendation for helping his neighbors during a Feb. 21, 2022, house fire during the supervisors’ meeting on Feb. 16, 2023.

Carson resident Aiden Bailey, center, was awarded the Medal of Commendation for helping his neighbors during a Feb. 21, 2022, house fire during the supervisors’ meeting on Feb. 16, 2023.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

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Sales taxes appear to be the most palatable way to help bridge Carson City’s estimated $21 million road-funding gap.

Thursday, the Board of Supervisors didn’t make a formal motion but directed city staff to pursue a 2024 ballot measure that would put a new .25 percent sales tax to voters in the next general election.

Supervisors agreed this would spread the burden of road maintenance to visitors, not just residents.

“We know we’re a regional hub for surrounding counties,” said Supervisor Stacey Giomi.

Mayor Lori Bagwell said she has no issues bringing the tax to the public.

“The people made that decision on the diesel tax,” she said, referring to a 5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax approved by Carson City voters in November.

Even with the diesel tax, annual revenue for road maintenance hovers around $4.5 million, while maintenance needs for the current network surpass $25 million. The problem is regional roads tend to stay in better shape because they qualify for federal grants. In fact, Public Works Deputy Director Dan Stucky pointed out the city has secured roughly $50 million in federal funding since 2017. Local neighborhood roads — the majority of the city’s road network — do not qualify for the same federal dollars. A staff report warns pavement conditions of neighborhood roads will slip into “very poor” status by 2030.

Giomi put it another way.

“They’ll eventually go back to dirt roads,” he said.

Supervisor Curtis Horton, who retired from Public Works, had a similar warning.

“We are speeding toward the brink of no return,” he said.

Supervisors Lisa Schuette and Maurice White were also supportive of a new sales tax. White emphasized new funding must go toward “maintaining asphalt.”

“This is absolutely, strictly asphalt maintenance and rebuilding failing roads — local neighborhood roads,” he said. 

Besides the new sales tax, supervisors expressed interest in preserving the .125 percent V&T infrastructure sales tax scheduled to sunset in 2027. The two taxes together could generate an additional $5 million a year for neighborhood roads, according to Hansford Economic Consulting.

Less palatable options were a general improvement district (GID) and local improvement special districts (SIDs), both requiring special assessments on property owners. The former are broader legal entities, while the latter are for location-specific projects. Some SIDs already exist in the city.

“I’m not ready, personally, to kick off the GID discussion,” Bagwell said.

However, Bagwell said residents of a neighborhood can bring SID proposals to the board if enough residents want to pay for improvements.

“I’d be happy to put that on the agenda if anyone brought that forward,” she said.

The broader option of a GID would raise the most money, according to Hansford. Carson City property owners paying $35 a month in special assessments could raise $12.2 million a year. The .25 percent sales tax, on the other hand, would cost a Carson City household about $11.50 a month, according to Hansford.

“Thirty-five dollars a month, to me, is huge,” resident Deni French said during public comment. “I want alternatives and possibilities.”

Supervisors wanted more possibilities as well, directing staff to further explore the GID option, how assessments could be determined and if a GID could work with a lower cost to residents.

Another wildcard in the discussion was what Nevada lawmakers will do during the current legislative session. Carson City Transportation Director Chris Martinovich explained a state advisory committee has recommended moving away from a fuel-tax model — given the rise of electric vehicles — and toward a road-user charge. However, Martinovich said such a shift could take more than a decade.

After the hearing on road funding, supervisors approved building the next fiscal budget around the existing property tax rate of $3.57 per $100 of assessed value. Chief Financial Officer Sheri Russell-Benabou projected about $32 million in property tax revenue for the general fund for next year, or a 4.5 percent increase. She projected consolidated sales tax revenue for the general fund will increase by 2 percent, to more than $42 million.

Due to inflation, though, the next budget year could be difficult, Russell-Benabou cautioned.

Giomi said supervisors can revisit the board’s financial policies in the future and determine if more capital improvement dollars should be allocated to neighborhood roads.

In other action:

• Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose Assembly Bill 14. A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Tuesday in front of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Carson City Government Liaison Stephen Wood described how the bill would force Carson City and other local governments to integrate their business licensing system with the state’s.

Nicki Aaker, director of Carson City Health and Human Services, and Hope Sullivan, director of Carson City Community Development, spoke out against the proposed legislation.

“Our service to customers could decrease,” Aaker said.

Sullivan said integrating with the state does not work for Carson City. Besides the fact the city has its own software system, the city sends business license applications to the health department, the fire department and other city departments for review. She emphasized the city already requires evidence of a state business license before issuing a city business license.

Wood also mentioned that a hearing for Senate Bill 16, which would update the city’s charter, is expected for Wednesday afternoon.

City officials are tracking bills online:

• Supervisors joined Fire Chief Sean Slamon as he awarded the Medal of Commendation to resident Aiden Bailey.

Slamon said Bailey woke up his neighbors the night of Feb. 21, 2022, when a house fire on Minonee Lane jumped from one house to another. Bailey knocked on the door to wake up the residents, and they were able to get to safety.

“His actions absolutely contributed to the safety of the community and his neighbors,” said Slamon.


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