Douglas voters reject quarter-cent tax |

Douglas voters reject quarter-cent tax

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Douglas County voters have rejected a quarter-cent sales tax hike that backers hoped would preserve undeveloped land.

The measure, Douglas County question No. 1, lost Tuesday by a margin of roughly 56 to 44 percent, with 17,533 votes cast.

The outcome surprised both sides.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Suzy Stockdale, a leader of the Douglas County Agriculture and Open Space Preservation Committee, which lobbied for the increase. “We really felt we had more support to come up with a program to preserve our open space. It was such a fair way of raising funds to help protect it.”

“I’m surprised it would be defeated with all the money they raised and the influence of The Nature Conservancy and the American Land Conservancy,” said Dave Williams, a member of the Douglas County No on #1 Committee. “It’s got good intentions, but it’s bad policy.”

Under the proposal, Douglas county’s sales tax would have risen to 7 percent and the increase would have raised an estimated $1.2 million a year. Proponents said the money could be used to buy conservation easements, essentially paying ranchers not to develop their land.

Backers presented the sales tax as a fair way to protect views throughout Douglas County and avoid paying for the streets, sewers and other services that development requires.

Opponents wanted more details about who would benefit and how the program would work. They also questioned the fairness of using a public sales tax for financing transactions involving private land.

Only four Carson Valley precincts – Mottsville, Centerville, Jacks Valley and Minden – voted for the increase. The margin was approximately 51-49 percent in the Mottsville, Jacks Valley and Minden precincts and 50.28 to 49.72 percent in Centerville.

One Lake Tahoe precinct – Daggett – voted for the sales tax hike, also on a 51-49 percent margin. The county has 33 precincts.

Stockdale said the group will continue to study ways to preserve open space. She noted an earlier school bond took three attempts to pass.

“We’re not going to give up,” she said. “We’ll keep trying. I think many people moved here because of the ranches and the open space. It is extremely important.”