School district may seek tax vote
March 13, 2016
A .25 percent sale tax that would fund $10 million in school repairs through 2027, was approved by the Douglas County School District's SB411 Committee on Wednesday.
During their hour-long meeting at the school district administration building, committee members approved terms of the tax question, which now moves on to county commissioners, who could consider the tax question as early as their April 7 meeting.
The committee was formed in accordance with Senate Bill 411, which allows voters to decide on funding for school district capital projects within their county. The law was approved during the 2015 Legislature to address capital needs funding for each of Nevada's counties in 2016.
The law requires a recommendation from the committee be made to the board of commissioners by April 2 before the question is placed on the ballot.
Committee member Brad Spires made a motion to approve the combo funding scenario that at the average cost with a tax rate of .25 percent. The combo scenario assumes a 10-year bond issue to fund upfront costs.
"Congratulations … That's the easy part," committee chairman Dave Brady said after the vote. "The hard part is getting the public to buy in."
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During their meeting committee members discussed options on calculations provided by Marty Johnson of JNA Consulting that included a tax rate of .32 percent or .25 percent and whether to use a pay-as-you-go or a combination bond and tax scenario. Holly Luna, the school district's Business Services chief financial officer, explained on Thursday that average annual cost of the this sales and use tax increase is expected to be $25 for a typical payer in Douglas County based $10,000 in expenditures on goods that are subject to the tax.
A draft of the ballot question from the committee's Feb. 24 meeting reads that money will fund capital projects, including the acquisition, construction, improvement and equipping of school facilities.
"As soon as you say construction and acquisition, it sounds like you're building new schools and that's a term we do not need," Spires said during the discussion.
"This is for repairs that are critical to the health, welfare and safety of our community," Brady noted.
"I'm cool with health and safety issues," Spires added. "I think we're doing this for health and safety issues, that's what we decided early on and I think the wording should reflect that."
Earlier in the discussion, Luna raised a concern that the scope for fund usage might not be broad enough.
"The cycling could change," she explained. "Potentially, a new emergency or a new code issue, so that's my concern as I go into this. Whatever the voters vote on, that's what I'm held to."
Brady responded to add, "I don't have a problem creating as much flexibility as possible, but it would be nice to have it reflect what our priorities are."
Committee member and county commissioner Steve Thaler asked who was going to be responsible for promoting and explaining the ballot question to voters.
"I think we knew, quite frankly, that we're not here to cheerlead or champion the cause," Brady said. "We're here to be able to write data driven information so that the public can make an informed decision."