Carson City Board of Supervisors puts 5-cent tax on diesel; will go to the ballot in 2022
The Board of Supervisors Thursday voted to impose a 5 cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel starting sometime in 2020 and then put it on the ballot in 2022 for voters to decide whether to continue it.
The vote was 4-1 with Supervisor Lori Bagwell voting no.
“I feel very strongly that the public already voted in Carson City. I cannot vote contrary to the voters,” said Bagwell referring to the gas tax ballot question in 2016, which failed. “If you vote it down that sends me the message this is not a priority. I want to send it to a ballot and I want them to approve it.”
Earlier this year the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 48 which allows rural counties to levy up to 5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and retain it for local road work. Both gas and diesel are currently taxed 52 cents per gallon, but all the revenues from diesel goes to the state and federal government while the city gets 15 cents of the regular fuel tax.
The new law allows rural counties to decide whether to impose the tax by ordinance or through a ballot, and the supervisors decided on a mix of the two options.
The vote required three motions. Supervisor John Barrette first moved to pass the 5 cent levy by ordinance and that vote failed with Bagwell and Supervisor Stacey Giomi voting no. Then Bagwell moved to put the question to voters via ballot and that failed to garner a second.
Finally, Supervisor Brad Bonkowski moved to impose a short-term tax by ordinance and two years later take it to the voters, who could vote whether to end it or keep it, and that passed by the required 4-1 vote.
“I know Public Works is not in favor because we can’t bond, but it does enable us to start making road repairs. Then people can make a more informed decision,” said Bonkowski.
Because the tax could be temporary, the city would not be able to bond against it and raise additional money for road work. Sheri Russell, chief financial officer, said the city recently bonded for $3 million against $500,000 so the expected revenue from a diesel tax would allow less than $3 million in bonds.
The tax is projected to raise about $400,000 annually for the city. Lucia Maloney, transportation manager, said road reconstruction costs roughly $1 million a mile, but the $400,000 could be better used for crack filling and other projects that extend the life of road.
The tax is expected to most impact the truckers and the trucking industry supported the bill behind it. The ordinance to it will be voted on by board in early 2020.
The supervisors also voted to opt out of a national opioid settlement and instead proceed with its own suit.
A so-called negotiation class was created by United States District Judge Dan Aaron Polster in a national prescription opiate litigation. The class automatically includes all jurisdictions in the country unless a jurisdiction decides to opt out. Carson City estimated it would receive $229,411 of a hypothetical $1 billion settlement if it participated.
In May, 2018, the supervisors voted to engage Eglet Adams to seek recovery of monetary damages caused by the crisis, although the law firm has not yet filed suit.
The discussion was in a closed session because District Attorney Jason Woodbury provided legal advice to the board. But after the meeting Woodbury said the bottom line was the city expects to be able to recover more money with its own suit.
The board voted to raise recording document fees by $6 with the revenue going to offset costs associated with a contract for legal services for abused and neglected children, another action precipitated by a law passed in the 2019 Nevada Legislature. That passed 4-1 with Bonkwoski voting no because he said he did not see the nexus between recording document fees and legal services.
The supervisors also appointed John Giomi as public guardian for a four-year term through Nov. 6, 2023 and to set his starting salary at $75,000 per year.
Supervisor Giomi disclosed he and the new public guardian are distant cousins, but the relationship did not require him to abstain from voting.
John Giomi has been a case manager in the city’s public guardian office and recently served as deputy manager while the city recruited for a public guardian.
“He’s been the glue that has held that office together,” said Nancy Paulson, city manager