Washoe County Commission gears up for discussion of school repair bill
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A Washoe County Commissioner says she has "grave concerns" about the Washoe County School District's bill that's being discussed at tonight's meeting.
The County Commission will look at the proposal to raise the sales tax by a quarter percent and the property tax by five cents in order to fund school repair projects in Washoe County. The decision over Assembly Bill 46 was passed onto the Commission at the end of the legislative session. It was a move that surprised many of the commissioners, who historically have no say in how the school district is funded.
In an email to her constituents, Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler expresses her concern about the legislature's "establishing of a new normal in the State of Nevada by enabling the County Commission to raise taxes for another elected body for which we have no financial oversight."
Berkbigler has reviewed the WCSD's budget for capital projects and says, by the end of the year, that pot of money will be less than a 100 million dollars. WCSD needs an estimated 500 million dollars to do all the necessary repairs and upgrades.
She says unfortunately the district "does not have a stream of money dedicated to capital projects, as does every other County School District in Nevada." Much of the district's funding is tied to property and sales taxes, which have not provided steady sources of funding since the beginning of the Great Recession.
Berkbigler concludes her email by saying she believes that it's probably necessary to have a reliable source of funding to assure schools are safe and secure.
When the bill first made it out of the legislature, County Commissioner David Humke echoed Berkbigler's sentiment on the importance of keeping schools in good shape. At the same time, Humke said, "we haven't considered raising taxes very much throughout the recession."
The bill will need four out of five votes to pass. While the final vote probably won't take place until the fall, WCSD will present its plan tonight for the County Commission and the public.