The Washoe Board of County Commissioners today approved the language for a ballot measure that will increase property taxes throughout Washoe County for Truckee River flood mitigation.
Commissioners approved the language in accordance with state law requiring the measure be placed on the ballot, but not without objections.
Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said that tax inappropriately targets the entire county to benefit what is a Truckee River issue.
“This is ridiculous,” she said before voting for the measure.
A flood tax committee recommended a property tax increase as part of the state mandate. If approved by voters, property taxes will increase about 3 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed value.
“It does only relate to the river,” Washoe County’s Jamie Rodriguez told the board.
Commissioner Vaughn Hartung noted that the commission was required by law to approve the language once a committee made a recommendation for the tax.
Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus weighed-in and called the tax shortsighted.
“I am not supportive of a county-wide tax if revenue cannot be used to address southwest Reno’s vulnerability to irrigation ditch breeches or North Valleys flooding,” she said. “(It is) especially relevant today because the Lake Ditch at Clough Road is seeping now that the water is turned on and people there are buying pumps to protect themselves from water intrusion.
“It is a terrible mess right now and nothing has been done for several years to address this. The money proposed for this vote will not be eligible to help this area or others like it.”
The Truckee River Flood Project needs the fund to continue mitigation projects for its 100-year flood management projects overseen by the Truckee River Flood Management Authority.
The language to appear on the November ballot:
Shall Washoe County be authorized to levy an additional property tax rate for the purpose of paying for the cost of designing, acquiring, constructing, improving and equipping a flood protection project by the Truckee River Flood Management Authority for the Truckee River in the amount of $0.0248 per $100 of assess valuation and for the Truckee River Flood Management Authority to issue up to $89,000,000 of general obligation bonds for those purposes? The bonds are expected to require a property tax levy of 30 years for each series of bonds from the dates of issuance. The tax will terminate when these bonds have been retired in approximately 30 years from the dates they are issued. The cost of the $0.0248 property tax levy for the owner of a new $100,000 home is estimated to average $8.68 per year. If this question is approved by the voters, any property tax as authorized by this question will be outside of the caps on the taxpayer’s liability for property (ad valorem) taxes established by the legislature in the 2005 session and exempt from partial abatement from taxation as provided by NRS 361.4722, 361.4723 and 361.4724.
As part of the criteria for recommending the placement of a tax proposition on the ballot, the FCPNC was also required to develop a recommendation to the TRFMA Board of Directors, comprised of elected officials from the Cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County, to enact a fee on properties that will directly benefit from the construction of the Flood Project. The fee that the FCPNC recommended for the TRFMA board to consider is to be an amount not less than $3.00 per thousand square feet of developed square footage, and not more than $8.00 per thousand square feet of developed square footage per month for properties that would directly benefit from the Flood Project. Those properties considered in these “direct benefit” areas are typically flooded in an event similar to the Flood of 1997, or which have other substantial impacts caused by flooding, such as access limitations or business interruption. The TRFMA board has the authority to impose fees to help fund the Flood Project.
If approved, the property tax funding will greatly help TRFMA to negotiate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for federal funding authorized by Congress in 2014.
The Flood Project will help protect properties that are prone to flooding along portions of the Truckee River from Booth Street downtown to the railroad bridges east of Vista Blvd. This also includes properties in the commercial area from the airport to McCarran Blvd. in Reno and commercial properties located north of the river to Interstate 80 and in some cases north of I-80 in Sparks. It also includes selected residential properties along Steamboat Creek located north of the Rosewood Lakes subdivision.
The use of the proposed tax funds is limited to Flood Project construction including:
· Engineering, design and permitting of the Truckee River Flood Project;
· Construction of levees and floodwalls along the Truckee River;
· Widening of the Truckee River Channel at the Vista Narrows;
· Terracing and environmental restoration along the Truckee River;
· Elevating homes within the home elevation project boundaries; and
· Downstream mitigation project planning, design and construction.
The proposed property tax increase, the recommended direct benefit area fee, the existing 1/8 cent sales tax (which has been funding TRFMA projects to date), and the authorized federal funding will together fund the estimated $400 million cost of the project.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.