The cost of growth
May 10, 2005
As Dayton grows, so do its classrooms. Developers say 10,000 students are expected to enter Dayton schools in the next few years.
“We can’t turn them back,” said Dayton Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Barbara Peck. “The problem becomes how do we accommodate them.”
To that end, educators and school officials are proposing a $1,600 tax on new homes built in Lyon County.
The idea of a construction tax isn’t a new one. County commissioners rejected the measure two months ago “without prejudice,” giving the proposal a second chance to be heard. Teachers, parents and officials will be given that chance at a public hearing Thursday.
“You can do what Douglas County did and stagger classes throughout the year, or you can levy this tax,” said Peck, who is also chairman of the Dayton town council.
Under the proposal, revenue from the construction tax would only benefit schools in the area in which it was collected.
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In Dayton, which has issued 5,000 new-home building permits, that would translate into $8 million for local schools.
Peck, who teaches a class of 30, said the tax would also alleviate overcrowded classrooms.
“Some of the commissioners say the tax is too high, but Douglas does it,” she said. “Capital improvements cost as much in Dayton as they do in Douglas. We’re hoping the commission will listen to the community – not the developers.”
To that end, Peck has organized a campaign to call commissioners in support of the tax. Because the hearing will take place in Yerington at 9:30 a.m., some Dayton residents will only be able to express their opinion through a phone receiver.
“The commissioners are afraid they’re discouraging development with this tax,” Peck said. “I don’t think it will. Lyon County is the fastest-growing county in the state and the seventh fastest in the nation.”
The measure has the near-unanimous backing of the school board and the Dayton and Fernley town councils. According to school officials, it also has the community’s support.
“People want this impact fee,” said Barbara Johnson, a school board member representing Stagecoach. “We’re putting up nice schools, but sometimes the parking lots are badly paved or dimly lit. These aren’t luxuries but necessities” – improvements that a construction tax would cover.
“We were lucky the people supported our school bond,” Johnson said, referring to a $22 million bond measure passed by voters in November.
“We didn’t have to raise taxes. But we can’t keep up with this growth. And it isn’t just the schools that are hurting but the fire department and other services.”
Previously, commissioners have showed little enthusiasm for the tax measure.
“When the school district presented it last, they didn’t have their act together,” said Commissioner Bob Milz, who represents Dayton. “They didn’t present it clearly.”
Things will be different this time, says Lyon County School Superintendent Nat Lommori.
“In the past, commissioners have said we didn’t provide enough information,” he said. “Hopefully this time, we will give them everything they require.”
According to Lommori, the school bond won’t cover the costs of all new projects. “Land we bought in Fernley for a new school cost more than we anticipated,” he said. A cap on property taxes recently passed by the state Legislature as well as inflation have only tightened school budgets.
“As a developer, if you have higher costs you can raise prices or cut corners,” Lommori said. “We can’t do that. We either have to pass another bond or do this. If you don’t impose this tax, you’re going to have bigger classrooms.
“As a longtime Lyon County resident, I don’t like to see my taxes go up any more than the next person. But this would be a tax on new residents.”
n Contact reporter Dan Moreau at email@example.com or 887-2430, ext. 351.