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Diesel tax passes first vote of Carson City supervisors

By Anne Knowles aknowles@nevadaappeal.com

The Board of Supervisors started down the road to impose a new tax on diesel fuel sold in Carson City.

The 5 cent per gallon tax will begin Aug. 1 and sunset on Dec. 31, 2022 unless a ballot measure to continue it is passed by voters in the 2022 election.

The tax is expected to raise $400,000 annually in additional money for maintenance of the city’s roads.

The new levy is allowed by a bill passed in 2019 by the Nevada Legislature, which gives rural counties the authority to impose a 1 to 5 cent per gallon tax.

Supervisor Lori Bagwell was the lone no vote during Thursday’s meeting.

“We had a ballot measure,” said Bagwell, referring to the 2016 question on gas tax indexing. “Sixteen thousand voters said no and 8,000 said yes so there was a clear message they were not willing to support a tax increase for roads.”

Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said the measure is supported by the trucking industry, which would be most affected by it. A portion of the tax goes to building long-haul parking areas in Nevada as rest stops for truckers.

The supervisors also approved a fee schedule for the recently renovated and reopened Carson City Rifle and Pistol Range. The schedule was developed by a citizens task force and recommended to the board by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The fee schedule includes $5 daily admission for Nevada residents and $10 for out-of-state shooters, or $50 annual fee for locals and $100 for out of state users.

The fees are dedicated to the operation and maintenance of the facility, which was previously managed by volunteers and now has a full-time range master.

Kristy Scott, owner, Battle Born Ammunitions & Firearms, during public comment, raised concerns about single commercial users monopolizing the range’s bays by booking them back to back and well into the future.

Jennifer Budge, director, Parks, Recreation and Open Space, said half the bays are always available for the public and the policy allows half to be reserved for classes or commercial users up to a year in advance.

“The range coordinator will work with the groups to make sure they’re not undercutting each other,” said Budge.

The new fees go into effect July 1.

The board revisited an item from its meeting two weeks ago when it decided not to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to hire nine more firefighters.

At the time, the grant required a match from the city and the supervisors decided it was too risky given the uncertainty about the impact to sales tax revenue due to the coronavirus shutdown.

But, Sean Slamon, fire chief, said the city got word FEMA has decided to waive the match. Previously, the city’s match would have been about $1.3 million over three years. With the waiver it will cost the city less than $400,000 and it will save the fire department a projected $900,000 in overtime costs.

The supervisors voted to apply for the grant, which is competitive and the city is not guaranteed to get it.

The board also approved the city’s final fiscal 2021 budget of about $158 million.

During discussion of the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, Supervisor Stacey Giomi, who attended the meeting remotely via videoconferencing, said he was suffering symptoms of the coronavirus and awaiting test results.

“I’m personally frustrated because I’ve done all the things I should have done, including wearing a mask in public,” said Giomi, who encouraged people to be cautious and courteous when they are out in public.

Bagwell and Mayor Bob Crowell both said they had received a lot of calls and messages asking why the city doesn’t have its own plan for reopening.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about why Carson City doesn’t have its own plan,” said Nancy Paulson, city manager. “We don’t have the authority to make a plan less restrictive than the governor’s and we don’t want to have a plan that is more restrictive.”