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Flood Control Ballot Question Heading to Washoe County Commission



Image: Truckee River Flood Management Project.
Image: Truckee River Flood Management Project.

A committee approved ballot question language on Thursday that will be forwarded to Washoe County commissioners, who will decide whether to ask voters in November for a property tax increase to pay for flood management projects.

The Truckee River Flood Control Project Needs Committee estimates the increase will raise about $400 million, which could potentially secure an additional $182 million in federal funding.

“A ‘no’ vote means the flood protection project in its current configuration would likely not be built; and if any portion is built at all, could only be built over a very long timeframe that would leave the properties along the Truckee River unprotected for decades,” ballot language states. “In addition, $182 million in federal funding to assist in the construction of the project would likely be lost.”

If approved, property taxes would go up by $0.0248 per $100 of assessed valuation. The tax would be effective when bonds are issued and would terminate when bonds are retired, according to the committee.

Committee consultant John Sherman said that equates to about $26 per year for someone with a new $100,000 home. However, several people suggested various valuations be included on the ballot to make amounts more interpretable for the public.

Proposed ballot language for the flood control taxation question. Image: Carla O’Day

Committee member Scott Smith said the public often confuses market value with assessed value.

“What would we do? We have to make that clear to them,” Smith said.

John Sherman, the committee’s consultant, said state law requires the $100,000 example be included in ballot language.

“There’s not only the statute requirement, there’s the ballot templates that came out of the Department of Taxation that are very specific about calculating the value based on a house or a new house,” Sherman said. “I would suggest to you that if you want to put some other value in there, I would urge caution because then you’re starting to mix up value. A voter can calculate this if they multiply.”

The need for this project was illustrated by the 1997 flood that caused damage in excess of $1 billion, which the committee said is the equivalent of annual damages estimated to range from $22 to $52 million.

Anticipated use of funds are as follows:

  • Final engineering, design, and permitting of the flood protection project
  • Construction of levees and flood walls along the Truckee River
  • Widening of the Truckee River Channel at the Vista Narrows
  • Terracing and environmental restoration along the Truckee River
  • The elevation of homes within the home elevation project boundaries
  • Downstream mitigation project planning, design, and construction

The Nevada Legislature last summer passed a bill that authorizes flood management authorities to create flood control project needs committees. Such boards can recommend taxes, fees, rates, or charges to fund the construction of a approved flood projects. They can also make recommendations for flood protection or mitigation.

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.