Letters for Dec. 2, 2015
Projects not worth tax increases
County commissioners at their meeting on Thursday will consider imposing two additional taxes in Douglas County: a 5-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, and a .25 percent increase in the sales tax. While I might have been able to support one or even both of these tax increases if they were to be used for the county’s highest priorities, I cannot support either one of them as they are currently proposed.
I could support a gas tax increase if, and only if, it were to be used solely for road maintenance, a top county priority. There is a clear nexus between gas consumed and road maintenance issues. The current proposal, however, includes nearly half the additional funds going towards a realignment of U.S. 50 at the Lake. Not only is that not a compelling priority for the county, but the majority of the benefit would only go to the casinos. In addition, the board is soon likely to approve an ill-advised “Redevelopment Area” in the casino corridor at the Lake. That will take funds that would otherwise have gone to the county, and give them instead to the Redevelopment Area for projects within that area only. The clear nexus for funding for the U.S. 50 realignment would be the Redevelopment Area, not the proposed gas tax increase.
The infrastructure sales tax increase was proposed to raise fund for the Countywide Connectivity Plan. That controversial plan previously included such unpopular and expensive projects as the gondola from Walley’s to the Ridge, a train along Highway 395 from Carson City to Minden, and a ferry across the Lake from Tahoe City to South Lake Tahoe (both in California). Once those egregious projects were removed from the Connectivity Plan, the remaining projects seemed a little more palatable: several trails (including one from the Ranchos to Lampe Park), some bike trails, and even consideration of a long-debated Highway 395 bypass around Minden and Gardnerville. Many residents supported at least some of those projects.
Flood control should be one of the county’s highest priorities? The plan would include a mere $500,000 to create a Storm Water Master Plan. No funds would go towards actual flood control.
Now that we see the actual proposed use of the new funds, however, we see that $5.3 million, well over one third of the revenues, would go to connecting Muller Parkway with Heybourne Road. Where did that come from? Neither that project nor anything like it was ever mentioned in the Connectivity Plan. It feels like the county is trying to pull the old “bait and switch” on residents. And to what purpose? To further unwanted and unneeded development? Or for use by trucks coming from the proposed gravel pit? Either way, it is not (and should not be) a high priority for the county.
Trust and credibility, once lost, are hard to regain. Many residents still remember (and resent) the fact the county commissioners nearly 25 years ago took $1 million out of the road fund and put it in the general fund. Likewise residents will neither forget nor forgive the commissioners if they go forward with this “bait and switch.”
Both of these tax increases are seriously flawed as they are currently proposed. They should both be denied by the Board, and possibly be reconsidered at another time when they more appropriately address the county’s highest priorities.