Sales tax hike may be a longshot |

Sales tax hike may be a longshot

The front of the Douglas County Judicial & Law Enforcement Building.
Kurt Hildebrand


What: Douglas County Board of Commissioners

When: 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: Historic Douglas County Courthouse, 1616 Eighth St.


Alternatives to a full expansion of the Douglas County Judicial & Law Enforcement Building will go before Douglas County commissioners on Thursday.

Commissioners instructed staff in January to prepare an advisory ballot question to see if voters would approve a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for the estimated $31.6 million renovation and expansion of the building.

They also called for alternatives to a full expansion, which will be presented at Thursday’s meeting.

Passing a sales tax increase will require a vote of residents, who have only approved one in 20 years.

Commissioners could implement the increase with four votes, but two of them have signed tax pledges and the rest have said they felt it needs to go on the ballot.

Called an infrastructure tax, it was last pitched voters to fund to build the community and senior center in 2006. It was also proposed in 2002 to build and repair roads.

Today the tax would raise $1.5-$1.6 million a year to make payments on a bond for the project.

East Fork Township’s population has qualified it for a second justice since at least the turn of the century.

Under state law, adding the second justice is automatic unless the sitting justice of the peace sends in a letter.

“This project has consequences whether it’s approved or not,” Perkins said. “I’m confident my successor will insist on a second judge. I’m confident that the district attorney will be seeking more room.”

Perkins is not seeking another term as justice of the peace.

He said the county could add another courtroom to the building, but that the other agencies there would still require additional room.

“That would just be a Band-Aid that would have financial consequences overt the years, and those consequences could have a bigger impact.”

Commission Chairman Steve Thaler said he didn’t feel the commission could continue the effort.

“What we can’t do is fund this on a year-to-year basis,” he said. “If we set aside $1 million a year for 30 years, 30 years later it won’t cost $30 million, it will cost $60 million.”

Commissioner Barry Penzel said he favored combining all the county offices at one site.

There are county offices located in the historic courthouse, the Minden Inn, the former Douglas County Library and the Community & Senior Center in addition to other spots.

Penzel said he felt selling the judicial and law enforcement building and the Minden Inn would help finance the project.

At issue in leaving the present site of the judicial building is the $4 million the county invested in the jail in 2011.

Adding 30,000 square feet to the 35-year-old building will cost $13.5 million. Renovating 25,000 square feet is estimated to cost $6.8 million, while a 70,000-square-foot parking structure would cost $4 million.

The original building was constructed starting in 1980 for $4.5 million raised when voters approved a $6 million bond. The rest of the money built the county’s Stateline offices.

Until 1982, the county jail was located in the basement of the historic Douglas County Courthouse.

At 7.1 percent, Douglas has the second lowest sales tax rate in the state. Elko, Pershing, Lyon and Lincoln counties also charge 7.1 percent.

Humboldt, Eureka, Mineral and Esmeralda counties all charge 6.85 percent.

Carson has a 7.6 percent sales tax, while Washoe has an 8.265 percent tax rate.