Carson City road funding shortage needs to be solved at state, federal level, supervisor says
Carson City is looking into different ways to raise revenue for road maintenance.
The city like all municipalities relies on a portion of the tax on gas and has available roughly $2.5 million for an estimated $15 million in annual needed streets maintenance.
“You can see there’s a big discrepancy there,” said Supervisor Brad Bonkowski at a luncheon Monday hosted by the Carson City Democratic Men’s Committee.
Bonkowski said even if the city committed $7.5 million in general fund reserve money to the problem, there would still be a significant shortfall.
“We’re going backward at a 100 miles an hour,” he said. “This is a problem we can’t solve. It has to be solved at the federal and state level.”
A bill the city supports and that would provide a little relief is likely to pass this session of the Nevada Legislature. Senate Bill 48 would let local governments tax diesel fuel, which would raise approximately $400,000 annually for Carson City.
Another state bill that would have charged a fee based on vehicle weight and miles traveled failed earlier this session, due to privacy concerns, but Bonkowski said issues with it might be worked out.
“If state and federal government won’t come up with a better solution we’re going to have to look for these out of the box solutions,” said Bonkowski. “The solution sometimes takes five to seven to nine years.”
Bonkowski spoke with legislators about resurrecting fuel indexing, which failed as a Carson City ballot question in 2016, and to institute it the way it was done in Las Vegas. In 2013, the legislature passed a bill allowing the Clark County Board of Commissioners to index fuel taxes for three years, then put it to a vote. In 2016, voters there voted to extend the indexing for another 10 years. But, Bonkowski said there is no support for the idea from local lawmakers.
Lucia Maloney, transportation manager, said fuel indexing would raise about $950,000 in the first year and $9 million by the 10th year.
“That would be a big chunk of what we need,” said Maloney.
Another idea is a utility transportation fee, a monthly fee like sewer or water but for the cost of road impacts. The fee has been tested throughout western states, including California and Oregon, which base it on miles traveled. But, Maloney said it is not clear it would work under Nevada law.
In the meantime, the city is also working on ideas locally. Last year, the Board of Supervisors decided to dedicate a $350,000 to $400,000 annual surplus in the V&T infrastructure fund to roads maintenance.
Also, the new waste management contract which starts in July comes with an 8 percent franchise fee. The city is setting aside 3 percent for streets, which will add an estimated $300,000 to maintenance.
And Bonkowski said the District Attorney’s office is looking into whether a special assessment district could be created in south Carson City, in the rapidly developing area on Cochise Street. The district would likely be set up similarly to the Downtown Neighborhood Improvement District, in which local property owners along the redeveloped Curry and Carson streets are assessed through property taxes for a share of the maintenance of the streetscape.
Bonkowski said if a district was set up in the Cochise Street area, which has both commercial and residential properties, only commercial owners would be assessed to help cover the costs of increased traffic there.