Ronni Hannaman: We all want to live in Utopia, but who pays?

The chart prepared by the Carson City Assessor’s Office provides insight into those who pay most of the property taxes locally.

The chart prepared by the Carson City Assessor’s Office provides insight into those who pay most of the property taxes locally.

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We all have our personal view of Utopia which, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government and social conditions.”

As Carson City government peers into the future by updating the soon-to-be expired 2006 Master Plan to look 20 years into the future, it becomes apparent citizens who participated in the process each have a different version of how Carson City should progress to a utopian future.

Our Utopia would have far more “things for youth/young adults to do.” Those who love the outdoors cited “better connectivity for walking and biking to include more sidewalks and trails.”

The number one issue under the “if you could change one thing, what would it be?” category was to address the perceived homelessness crisis.

The vacant former K-Mart building in north Carson and the continued vacancy of the former Ormsby House is still at the top of many minds as is the need for workforce housing for young adults while also encouraging high-end retirement options.

Citizens want the government to focus on attracting more small businesses, arts/culture, and our history. Most governmental master plans are blueprints to address land use, infrastructure development, economic growth, redevelopment as the key elements.

Zoning needs to be addressed to reduce the need for “special use permits.” Keeping spaces open is paramount and should continue to be a top priority as the few ranches left sell off their land to developers as the land comes to the market.

Open land gives locals and visitors a chance to be one with the land. The city needs to identify what public spaces/buildings are needed. A convention center for economic growth? A larger library? An outdoor arena to attract large events? A civic plaza? More parks and recreational facilities?

The continuing disrepair of our roads remains a sore subject without a viable solution, at least for now. What does it take to create a Utopia? Simple. Taxes. And Carson City lacks tax revenue to make it all happen, yet for a city of our size we seem to have more social services than our neighboring counties, and a park system of which we can be proud – funded by 1/4 of a cent sales tax.

Sometimes we are not sure how we can do it all. For those who don’t know, Carson City recorded 21,154 parcels for FY 2023/2024. Those parcels comprise approximately 90,000 acres of which about 16,577 (26 square miles) are on the tax rolls.

When you do the math, that’s about 23% of all parcels paying some form of property tax and even that tax is not created equal for agricultural, historical, and rural landowners pay far less that those who own single family, multi-family, commercial or industrial parcels. Even within those categories, thanks to the Nevada depreciation table that stays with a property, a million-dollar property in the historic west side may pay only a fraction of what the new homeowner pays for a far lesser amount because the new home is not depreciated and pays taxes on the new home sales price.

Over 73,000 acres (114 square miles) within our approximately 144 square miles are totally non-taxable. As a capital city, all those government buildings dominating the downtown pay zero taxes.

Churches are exempt, as are charitable non-profits. Schools and colleges are exempt as is the airport. Add to that the hospital, indigent and elderly housing and low-income housing projects. BLM, forestry, and other governmental lands are exempt as is the tribal land.

While there are other taxes collected to make up the city budget such as sales tax, franchise fees and more, it is the property tax that is the most stable and can be counted upon. However, a small increase in sales tax is far more equitable and is also paid by those not living here.

Living in a Utopia costs millions, and one wonders whether locals are prepared to see their taxes rise to cover the cost of the “wants.” There are two ballot measures coming forth to support road repairs and it is up to us to all pay our fair share to strike this item off our “want” list so we can drive on drivable roads.

As a reminder from the past, Carson City residents have learned the hard way what can happen when a special tax to support a special purpose is voted down.

If the voters had approved the proposed ballot question to impose a minor tax to rehab the decaying V&T Engine House, that large historic parcel of Carson and Nevada history would not have been demolished in 1991.

For many who lived through that time, there still is regret. The lesson may have been learned, for voters approved the Quality-of-Life tax passed in 1996 to fund the aquatic center, parks, open space, and more which has increased the quality of life which we now take for granted.

Bottom line, the want of citizens must be paid by the citizen through taxes or user fees. Taxes are never popular but are necessary if we are to have the quality of life for which we so advocate.

While growth is frowned upon by some, it is managed growth that will pave the way to build our separate and collective version of Utopia and should be welcomed.


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