Jim Clark: Not sold on tax increase proposal for Washoe schools (opinion)
Jim Clark is a weekly opinion columnist for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspaper.
This November, Washoe County voters will have to choose not only a president, senator, congressman, state senator and assemblyman, there will be local races such as IVGID and an as-yet-undetermined number of ballot questions covering subjects ranging from solar power, marijuana legalization, rescinding the gross receipts tax and increasing county sales taxes to pay for maintenance and construction of schools.
Now is a good time to become an informed voter, and since all politics is local, let’s start with that last ballot question, increasing taxes for school construction and maintenance.
The ballot language has yet to be written. If it were up to me, it would read: “Shall Washoe County sales taxes be increased from 7.725 percent to 8.265 percent to raise $781 million dollars and give it to the idiots who run our school board?”
Hitting on the just most recent mortal sins of our school trustees, they: (1) secretly decided to fire the superintendent resulting in: (2) an indefensible lawsuit which they settled for megabucks and (3) the Nevada Attorney General landing on them like a ton of bricks levying individual fines for violation of the Nevada Open Meeting law, followed by (4) hiring an outside attorney for big bucks while retaining their salaried attorney, followed by (5) an injudiciously expensive promotion of an acting superintendent (who lives in Las Vegas) at a big salary, bonus and $800 per month car allowance.
And they want still more taxpayer money to play with.
The first Washoe County school bond to fail voter approval was in 1996. Full disclosure: The measure was actively opposed by a group headquartered in Incline Village, of which your humble columnist was a member.
After the election we were asked what could be done to improve voter confidence in the school board and we suggested an independent management audit.
The board then hired KPMG Peat Marwick, which came up with over 400 pages of improvement proposals. Most were implemented and a subsequent bond issue was approved by voters. Things went downhill from there.
In connection with the current tax increase proposal, Sparks resident Doug Goodman recently penned a column for the Reno Gazette-Journal headlined “Need for tax hike not proven.”
Goodman points out that school trustees have not fully explored all revenue sources to fund their perceived capital needs. He suggests voters should be told how much money the 2015 Legislature authorized by extending the current 38.5 cent school debt portion of the property tax.
He suggests that the school board approve a public disclosure of all expenses not directly in support of student instruction or facility maintenance.
Goodman also suggests an audit of administrative positions with public justification of salaries paid for each such position. He points out that there is an executive staff of 12, not including deputy superintendents, six area superintendents and 76 departments.
He also proposes a listing of all service contracts. Finally, he suggests revising procedure manuals to avoid future violations of Nevada’s Open Meeting Law. He might have added “liquidate surplus property” such as the old Incline Elementary School.
Interestingly, last Sunday the RGJ’s fact checker, Mark Robison, tackled the issue of school impact fees on residential developers.
Lyon County, which is in the penumbra of economic growth associated with Tesla, et al, plus the newly approved copper mining in Yerington, imposes a fee of $1,600 on every new home, apartment and mobile home space in that county to pay for schools.
Robison’s research concludes that Washoe County cannot impose impact fees because they are prohibited in school districts with populations of more than 55,000.
Huh?? If the Washoe County School District can go to the legislature to get a sales tax ballot measure approved, why not impact fees?
Voter approval of this school tax measure will require a heap more transparency.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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