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Average vehicle registration tax could go up $43 for more county services



At a special meeting today, the Washoe County Board of Commissioners voted to place two advisory questions on the ballot for the upcoming general election on Nov. 6. Following discussion and public testimony, commissioners took action to submit questions regarding public services funding and a public safety automatic aid advisory question to public vote, in compliance with the July 16 statutory deadline for submitting ballot questions for this year’s general election.

“Advisory questions give the Commission the voice of the people,” said Washoe County Manager Katy Simon. “The commissioners want to know what the public thinks about these issues, and the advisory questions are the way to determine the voters’ intentions.”

Advisory ballot questions differ from binding questions because they provide the Commission with direction without creating a legal restriction. In the case of the public services funding advisory question, statute does not allow the proposed funding source, the government services tax, to be increased by a binding vote. It can only be enacted by ordinance approved by the Commission, but as Commissioner Dave Humke said, “You can never go wrong when you ask the citizens, and I am very confident in the response of the citizens. The advisory question is the way to establish the will of the voters, and the Commission will be guided by that.”

Public services funding advisory question

The public services funding advisory question asks the voters if they wish to see more funding provided for services such as senior services, public safety and public infrastructure by increasing the government services tax from its current rate of 4 percent to a maximum of 5 percent of the depreciated value of motor vehicles. The commissioners unanimously voted to put this question before the voters as advisory after hearing a detailed history of the needs for additional funding for the growing population of seniors in Washoe County, particularly those in poverty, and in response to previous voter surveys indicating the high priority the voters place on public safety and on job creation by investing in infrastructure.

This question is advisory only:

Should more funding for essential public services such as senior services, public safety services, and public infrastructure be provided by increasing the Government Services Tax from the current rate of 4% to a maximum of 5% of the depreciated value of a motor vehicle?

The fiscal impact on an individual owner of a motor vehicle will vary depending on the age of the vehicle and the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the motor vehicle. If the government services tax in Washoe County were increased by 1 percent on the depreciated value of a motor vehicle, the average additional cost to a motor vehicle owner would be approximately $43 per year, or less than 12 cents per day. Some vehicles used in interstate or intercounty operations are exempt; the exemptions are defined in NRS 706.011 to 706.861, inclusive.

Commissioner Dave Humke said, “There are a host of reasons of why it should go to a ballot question. In addition to our constituents, we have had both the city of Reno and the city of Sparks ask the Commission to put this on the ballot. We will look forward to the voice of the voters.”

Public safety automatic aid advisory question

In a 3 to 2 vote (Jung and Larkin dissenting) commissioners also approved the submittal of the 2012 public safety automatic aid advisory ballot question resolution, which was requested by Commissioner John Breternitz. The advisory question will ask the voters of the city of Reno and the unincorporated areas of Washoe County whether local governments providing emergency services should be required to provide closest unit emergency response to fire and medical emergencies, regardless of jurisdiction.

The question will appear only on ballots in the city of Reno and within the unincorporated areas of Washoe County. Sparks Mayor Gino Martini asked the County to keep the city of Sparks out of the equation for this ballot question. Martini stated that the city of Sparks has always had such agreements with the County and with the city of Reno and that they have worked very well.

The advisory question would read:

Should local governments be required to provide closest unit emergency response to fire and medical emergencies regardless of jurisdiction?

What’s next for the advisory ballot questions

During the July 24 Board of County Commission meeting, the board will appoint members to the ballot question arguments committees, who will prepare arguments for passage and arguments against passage of the ballot questions. Those arguments will appear on the sample ballot sent to voters prior to the November election.

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