For the last dozen years, Washoe County voters rejected all education ballot measures. That streak came to an end yesterday when WC-1, the initiative to hike the sales tax to fund school infrastructure projects, passed.
The initiative will raise the sales tax about half-a-percent, making the county’s new sales tax rate of 8.265 percent the highest in Nevada. The county anticipates raising $781 million in bonds over the next decade. The money will be used by the Washoe County School District to repair old schools and to build new ones. Right now, the district faces overcrowding and about one out of five schools are overcapacity.
The Reno Gazette-Journal education reporter Trevon Milliard says given the past history of voters at the ballot box, the dramatic about-face in this year’s election was unexpected.
“You expected a shift to be small, but you see 56 percent of voters approving this. That was the sign all night,” Milliard explains. “There was never an indication it wasn’t going to pass from the time we got the first results.”
The Political Action Committees the Coalition to Save Our Schools and the Educators for Washoe Schools raised about $1.4 million to fund the SOS Washoe campaign urging people to vote ‘yes’ on the ballot measure. Paid canvassers and volunteers knocked on doors and blanketed the community with yards signs and fliers. The money raised in this campaign and the community support for an education funding ballot measure is unprecedented in Washoe County.