Sales tax would fund school repairs | RecordCourier.com

Sales tax would fund school repairs

by Dave Price
dprice@recordcourier

With all the static surrounding the November election, getting information out about a proposal to fund millions in school repairs has been a challenge.

"This is a difficult year to do this kind of challenge," proponent Dave Brady said, noting that voters have numerous other issues on the ballot to consider. "But with SB411, you have to do it now or never. The Legislature said, 'We're only giving you one bite at the apple.'"

On Thursday, a small group gathered at Meneley Elementary School to hear about a .25 percent sales tax question to be considered by Douglas County voters on Nov. 8.

Brady, chairman of the SB411 committee, explained the terms of a tax question that is designed to raise $10 million for capital gains projects over 10 years. And Holly Luna, chief financial officer for the Douglas County School District, described some of the things to be addressed at the third in a series of town hall forums.

"We wanted a single tax and we wanted it to be simple and flexible, which would allow us to bond and to pay as you go," Brady said. "And by that, I mean sales tax is generally paid by the residents, but it's also paid by the people traveling through town."

District officials have identified a need to fund $8-$12 million in projects that address health and safety needs, and $48-$76 million in repair project needs.

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"What we looked at was recognizing that the county at-large is very sensitive to any sort of taxes," Brady said. "We decided from a standpoint of priorities that we were going to address two things: Health and safety issues that centered on the impact it would have on students, teachers, parents and the public, and the other was that of just critical need. The $47 million to $78 million … that's a big number to swallow."

Brady, who served as a Douglas County trustee for nine years and as board chairman, pointed out that the tax would be capped to stay in line with a state constitution provision that an ad valorem tax levy for all public purposes must not exceed $3.64 on each $100 of assessed valuation.

"The Legislature said (in SB411 in 2015) that if you want to bust the cap, you can take it higher," Brady said. "Well, the reality is, if we were to do that, I think it would have an adverse effect on property values as well as any businesses that would want to move here. But probably one of the more important things, we said, 'We only want a duration of only 10 years.' Typically with bonds, you can finance bonds for 10 years, 15 years or 30 years, but recognizing the sensitivity of the taxpayers, we decided to do a 10-year bond that will sunset after 10 years."

Luna explained that capital projects for schools are funded primarily by the DMV governmental vehicle services tax, residential building permit taxes as well as money generated from the sale or lease of district property. The pending sale of Kingsbury Middle School at Lake Tahoe, which could be completed in the spring of 2017, would be used to fund capital projects.

She added that the school district has nearly a million square feet of building space to maintain. Douglas and Washoe are the only counties in Nevada that have put SB411 on the general election ballot.