County to turn out pockets for roads
County commissioners will be reaching for the industrial sized brush to scrub $2.5 million from the budget to pay for local road maintenance.
While that won’t meet the $4.8 million a year county road officials say is necessary to maintain the roads, commissioners agreed it would make a dent and perhaps reduce the requirement for a tax increase.
Commissioners conducted a workshop on Tuesday to discuss what to do about local roads and how to pay for the work.
Suggested solutions included eliminating the towns and districts that are maintaining roads in their jurisdictions now.
Gardnerville Ranchos resident Terry Faff, who is fighting the district’s requirement he install a water meter, suggested eliminating that district.
Fish Springs resident Bev Anderson suggested outsourcing road maintenance.
Establishing a road district in those areas not being maintained by a town or district was opposed by Commissioner Barry Penzel, who lives in Johnson Lane.
However, Commissioner Larry Walsh, a Ruhenstroth resident, said he wouldn’t mind a district that just covered the roads in his neighborhood.
Foothill resident Jim Slade pointed out that county snowplows weren’t sure his cul de sac was a county road. He said residents ended up fixing a pothole themselves.
Douglas County has struggled with local road maintenance for decades.
Part of the issue is that the county is a patchwork quilt of districts, some of which do road maintenance.
Minden, Gardnerville, Indian Hills and Topaz Ranch Estates residents are safe from a property tax increase with their boundaries because those places are already at the $3.66 per $100 assessed valuation tax cap.
Complicating the issue is that Johnson Lane residents have a Minden mailing address, but live outside the town. Residents of Ruhenstroth and Topaz Lake have Gardnerville addresses but aren’t in the town boundaries.
Penzel said establishing districts was a nonstarter.
“The board cherry picking who’s in and who’s out is not fair or equitable,” he said.
He pointed out that Douglas County sales tax is below the state average, and that’s somewhere the county should consider asking voters to approve.
“Before we do that, we must make sure every dime we are spending is allocated correctly,” he said of a sales tax increase.
He suggested the county look at programs it can suspend or eliminate to make up the money.
Commissioner Nancy McDermid expressed concern about taking too much money out of the regional road maintenance for local roads.
“Those are the main roads, and we need to rebuild them,” she said. “We need to maintain them at the highest level because they have the most traffic.”
Commissioner Dave Nelson said he didn’t oppose putting taxes on the ballot.
“Every time there’s a need for money, the solution is let’s raise taxes,” Nelson said. “We need to look for other options than raising taxes.”
He said that he knew the county wouldn’t be spending $200,000 on tires this year.
The tax rate for a local road district was estimated at 33 cents per $100 assessed valuation to raise $4.8 million, according to County Manager Larry Werner.
He said that he asked the county clerk and assessor what the general tax rate would have to be to raise that amount of money.
“It’s not a simple formula,” he said. “They have to do it house by house.”
State law prohibits an increase of more than 3 percent a year, so even if the tax were implemented it would be a while before it reached its full level.
McDermid asked if subdivisions where homeowners associations maintain their own streets could be excluded.
Werner said that would be up to commissioners, but excluding some properties would increase the tax paid by the rest.
Devoting a tenth of the general fund to the roads would generate $4.3 million. Werner said 56 percent of the general fund goes to the courts and public safety, which is also a top priority for residents.