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City of Reno seeks authority to raise taxes through two senate bills

By Jeri Chadwell

The City of Reno has two bills submitted to the Nevada Legislature this session. Each of them would allow the city to raise certain taxes to pay for things ranging from street building and maintenance to outreach to the homeless population to parks and recreation operations.

While neither bill has been scheduled to be heard and acted upon by legislative committees, both were briefly discussed during a presentation by Reno City Manager Doug Thornley to the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs on Feb. 23.

Senate Bill 11

Senate Bill 11 seeks to give the cities of Sparks and Reno taxing powers that Washoe County already has. Currently, the county can impose a supplemental governmental services tax of 1 cent on each $1 of the value of a vehicle that’s owned by a county resident. To put that number into clearer context, it would amount to $10 per every $1,000 of a vehicle’s value.

The proceeds of the county’s tax can be applied to a broad number of projects, including building and maintaining sidewalks and streets, creating an interlocal agreement with the Regional Transportation Commission for projects funded through the tax and paying for the operating costs of the county or “any other costs to carry out the governmental functions of the county.”

SB11 would give these same rights to collect and use a governmental services tax within their own city limits to both Sparks and Reno—providing Washoe County didn’t exercise its right to do so before the bill was passed and went into effect. If Reno or Sparks imposed the tax, Washoe County would still be able to collect a governmental services tax on cars, too, but only those registered within unincorporated Washoe County.

While the language of the current law already allows for funds raised through this type of tax to be used for a broad variety of purposes, SB11 specifically notes that the tax monies can be used to “carry out programs that provide services and support to persons who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness and other programs of public health and welfare.”

Senate Bill 73

Senate Bill 73 seeks to open up a bevy of tax options to the City of Reno to fund capital projects and ongoing operations costs for its parks and recreational facilities and to preserve open space in the city and protect the Truckee River—as well as to pay principal and interest on bonds issued for those purposes.

SB73 would allow the city to form a committee that would have until April 22, 2022 to recommend imposing one or more of the following taxes: transient lodging, supplemental government services tax, real property transfer tax, sales and use tax or property tax. The committee might also recommend the reallocation of tax money raised through current taxes by the city to help fund the Truckee Meadows Flood Prevention Authority.

If a committee were formed and made a recommendation by the deadline, voters in Reno would get the final say on any new taxes during the November 2022 elections.

Under the provisions of SB73, the committee could recommend an increase in property taxes in the city that would be exempt from both the partial abatement of property taxes that some property owners receive and from the requirement that taxes not exceed $3.64 on each $100 of assessed property value.

An increase in sales taxes in the city of Reno could easily place it among the cities with the highest rates in the state. At 8.265%, the region’s taxes are not far behind the sales tax rates paid by citizens of Clark County. Currently, the City of Reno does not impose any of its own sales taxes. The Nevada sales tax rate is 4.6%. The county sales tax rate is 3.67%.

This Is Reno will continue to monitor both bills and provide an update if they move through the legislative process.

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