Carson City asked to add 5 cents to diesel fuel tax
The Regional Transportation Commission voted to recommend the Board of Supervisors levy a tax on diesel fuel sold in Carson City.
On Wednesday, the commission voted 4-1 with Supervisor Lori Bagwell voting no because the recommendation was to impose the tax via ordinance rather than putting it on the ballot.
The proposed tax stems from Senate Bill 48 passed during the 2019 session of the Nevada Legislature.
The bill allows counties with populations under 100,000 to add a 1 to 5 cent tax on diesel fuel to fund road maintenance. The law leaves it up to the counties whether to impose the tax by an ordinance passed by two-thirds of the county board or commission or to put it on the ballot for voters to vote on.
Carson City, like cities throughout the country, is significantly short on money to maintain its roads. Carson City, like all municipalities in Nevada, already imposes a 52 cent tax on diesel, but none of it comes back to the city while the city retains roughly 15 cents of the 52 cents levied on gasoline.
A 5 cent tax on diesel fuel would raise roughly $400,000 annually in Carson City, according to the Nevada Association of Counties.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski, who chairs the RTC, suggested recommending the supervisors pass an ordinance adding a 5 cent tax for three years. After that, the tax would be put on a ballot and voters would vote whether to continue it.
The idea is similar to what Clark County did when it indexed its gas tax for three years and voters were pleased enough with the results to support continuing it. But, Darren Schulz, director, Public Works, pointed out that it was slightly different. In Clark County, the gains in the tax rate made in those three years of indexing would have been retained even if the voters had voted no to continue indexing it. If the supervisors add a tax on diesel and the voters later vote no, the tax and revenue will disappear.
Bagwell said she wasn’t opposed to raising the tax, but she wanted voters involved at some point.
“I don’t mind going for the nickel because you’re absolutely right, we need the money,” said Bagwell. “But I think the public should tell us. I’d like to see it go to a ballot.”
Dan Stucky, city engineer, delivered an update on the South Carson Street project, including changes made after comments were received on the 90 percent complete design.
Based on those comments, the city will add green paint on the road in critical transition areas to alert car drivers they are crossing into bike lanes.
The design will retain the same deceleration lanes at Olive Garden and Raley’s, another issue commented on. Peak right-turn counts — 36 turns at Raley’s, for example — did not warrant extending them, said Stucky.
Bagwell questioned the necessity of the planned roundabout at Stewart and Carson streets.
“I’m getting a lot of pushback on the roundabout,” said Bagwell. “I’m not convinced the roundabout is all that favorable.”
Bagwell said she didn’t want to build a roundabout just because the city wants the federal grant it secured to help pay for the project.
The roundabout was one factor in the city being awarded the $7.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.
Roundabouts are also safer and require less maintenance than traffic signals and the idea of adding one at that intersection has been under consideration for at least 15 years, said Stucky.
“We would not be doing this if we had not done the engineering and believe it would function better than what is there now,” said Schulz.