Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category


May 7, 2008

By David Farside

Last week the members of the school construction and revitalization committee agreed to allow the school district to place two proposed tax increases on the November ballot. The 15-member panel, chaired by Sen. Randolph Townsend, was established by the legislators to find new sources of funding for building repairs and new schools in Washoe County.

One proposal will raise the sales tax a quarter-cent. Projected revenues would bring in about $18 million annually. Another recommendation was an increase in the government service tax. By adding another half-cent tax for every dollar of taxable value for motor vehicles almost $5 million more would be returned to the school district. Combined, this would generate the $24 million needed annually to fund a $393 million bond needed to repair and build schools.

Actually, the committee didn’t find “new sources” of funding. They just recommended an increase of old tax sources; something the legislature should have done in the first place.

Normally, the state legislature is responsible for school funding. But under the whip of our two republican friends of education, governor Jim gibbons and Sen. Bill Raggio, they decided to pass the buck to the committee and the voters of Washoe County.

Everyone concerned seemed to be in agreement with the committee’s decision. School superintendent Paul Dugan said, “ after years of trying to develop additional sources and going through countless meetings, we finally have a package to put before the voters and that I think is broad based and fair. ” But is it broad based and fair?

Penny Mayer was more than pleased with the decision. As a member of the committee, she represented the special interest of Realtors. At one time a new sources of revenue being considered was a real-estate transfer tax on the exchange of real property. I’m sure she thought the final decision was broad based and fair as long as it didn’t affect the Realtors.

The builders should be happy with the decision as well. Increases in impact fees were also being considered as a possible source of revenue for rejuvenating some older schools. Evidently, they also had an effective representative on the committee protecting their special interest. Too bad the auto dealers didn’t have an influential representative on the committee.

The gaming industry flexed their political muscle and dodged an increase in a gaming tax and room tax.

Late last year I made a presentation to Sen. Townsend’s committee. I requested them to consider

A statewide lottery for education as a possible long-term new source of funding. Before the meeting I spoke to someone close to the gaming and resort clan about the possibility of getting a lottery and room tax. After the building stopped shaking, we talked about something else. No doubt, the gaming and building industry agreed with Mr. Dugan’s comment about the decision being broad based and fair.

The recommendations by the committee will certainly be approved by the county commissioners and the school district’s board of trustees. Governor Jim doesn’t consider increased fees as a tax or increased sales tax as a new tax. So, he will still brag that

His philosophy of “no new taxes” is still intact. But what can you expect from a politician carrying around seven guns.

Since the legislator’s passed their responsibility for funding education on to the voters, the question is should the voters approve the new increases in fees and sales tax? Personally, if we voted today,

I would say no.

The school district should look for every possible source of revenue for their budget before they ask the taxpayers to bail them out. The elected trustees on the school board have to stop jumping through the political hoops of gibbons, Raggio and the gaming industry. They need to be politically pro-active and challenge the legislators for a percentage of the room tax and a statewide lottery.

They should take the initiative and hold a special workshop with all the school districts in Nevada and, as a collective group, lobby for a statewide lottery for education. Will they? No.

Last September, at a school board meeting, I requested an agenda item or public workshop to specifically hear the pros and cons of a lottery. They promised to get back to me the first of the year. It’s almost may and I haven’t heard from them yet. Probably, I never will.

On the surface, the two proposed ballot questions isn’t going to create a hardship on anyone in Washoe County. Will the increased fees discourage anyone from buying a car or a new shirt? I don’t think so.

On the other hand, will tourist stop coming to Reno because they have to pay an extra fifty-cents in room tax? No. Will the lottery hurt the casinos and gaming industry? No. So, why aren’t these options being considered?

Whenever local government, especially the school board, is challenged by outsiders to implement new ideas their response is always the same: “because of current legislation, we can’t.” my response has always been the same: “ when you say you can’t, you mean you won’t.

It’s evident the trustees will not use their elected positions to look at “new” sources of revenue that are really broad based. They will continue saying they can’t- which means they won’t. By saying no to their proposed ballot questions the voters are telling the trustees that unless they demonstrate some political backbone and pursue the room tax and lottery, we can’t support their proposed increases in taxes or fees. Which means- we won’t.