V&T commissioner floats room tax idea
Facing slumping sales tax revenues and a weak economy, at least two members of the V&T Railway Commission meeting in Minden on Monday said the commission needs to look into the future to make sure the railroad can survive financially.
Chairman Dwight Millard said Monday during a commission meeting he was concerned because of the shrinking amounts of money available to the commission.
With the latest section of track heading down into Brunswick Canyon scheduled for completion in about two weeks, he said he was worried less about the remaining money needed for construction than operating budgets after the construction is finished.
“I’m starting to worry about us sustaining ourselves,” he said.
He was joined by former chairman and commissioner Bob Hadfield, who said he too was concerned.
Millard said the Carson City sales tax dedicated to the V&T goes to retire the bonds sold to help finance initial construction.
Millard said that doesn’t generate more for the railroad operations, just money to pay off the bonds.
“I’ve always been told if push comes to shove, we would have to raise the room tax in Carson City,” Millard said.
He said they need to start talking about raising some money for operations from those who will benefit from the tourism the V&T brings to western Nevada.
“The commission needs to start thinking about billing the counties,” he said.
Commission Treasurer Ron Allen agreed, adding that the legislation creating the commission “says we need to bill the counties.”
When fully operational, the V&T is expected to create a destination draw for tourists from around the world that will benefit not only Storey, Lyon and Carson City but Douglas and Washoe counties and Lake Tahoe.
Millard said the first task is to find out exactly what the commission’s financial prospects are and what its options for raising operating capital are.
The discussion came during a meeting in Minden where commissioners celebrated the end of the V&T’s inaugural season. The final trains ran Nevada Day and, throughout the fall, all were sold out.
Next summer, Millard said, the V&T is planning to run trains four days a week for 24 weeks – a total of 96 trains. Plans are for Thursday and Friday diesel trains and Saturday and Sunday steam trains through the summer.
They estimate that will bring anywhere from 14,000 to a maximum of 20,000 tourists to the area.
But commissioners also announced that the train runs aren’t finished for this season. They said trains will run the first three Saturdays in December as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving.
In addition, commissioners were told their application for the full $30 million in stimulus money needed to finish construction including a depot in Carson City has been submitted to the federal government. They agreed to send Hadfield, project engineer Ken Dorr and his daughter Susan, who wrote the grant application, to Washington, D.C., in December to lobby for the funding.
That grant application has already received strong support from Gov. Jim Gibbons, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the rest of Nevada’s congressional delegation.
Gibbons, Millard said, referred to it as the top transportation priority for Nevada.
He said he believes the commission’s chances of getting most if not all the funding are good.