Mayor Marv Teixeira wants to give an additional $10 million from Carson City to the V&T Railway in exchange for 5 percent of the project's ticket sales.
Teixeira will propose the plan to the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway on March 3. He said he plans to put the idea on the ballot in November for an advisory vote if the commission approves it.
Carson City has given $21 million to the project, raised partly from an eighth-of-a-cent sales tax passed by supervisors in 2005 and partly from a room tax implemented by the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2002.
The additional money from Carson City would be raised through another eighth-of-a-cent sales tax. The 18-mile tourist railroad running from Virginia City to Carson City is expected to cost $55 million and be finished in 2011.
Teixeira said his plan would recoup the funds the city has given and continue to make money for years "way after I'm taking a dirt nap." This could eventually be about $500,000 a year, according to the mayor.
"I think Carson City should get a return on its investment," he said.
City staff had proposed using the eighth-of-a-cent sales tax this year to help the street maintenance fund. The city is working on fixing budget shortfalls for the current and next fiscal years.
But sales tax, Teixeira said, needs to be used for something more than "fixing potholes."
"You should spend your sales tax to create sales," he said.
Teixeira added the money from the city would keep construction on schedule. The commission is about $18 million short now and will have to stop work sometime next year if it doesn't get more.
Construction would continue with the $10 million from the city, Teixeira said, and give the commission time to get a federal grant to finish funding the project.
But the city has already spent a "substantial" amount on the project, said Supervisor Robin Williamson, and voters may not want to give more.
"It could be there's not an appetite to increase their taxes," she said.
Other areas such as parks, public safety and cultural activities might be better places to use the sales tax, she said.
The V&T commission does have the power to approve the mayor's plan, said commission attorney Mike Rowe, so giving the money comes back to how much Carson City residents want to spend on the project.