Marsha Berkbigler column: Questions and answers on AB 46
EDITOR’S NOTE: AB 46 includes an amendment that allows the Washoe County Board of Commissioners to determine whether to enact a proposal that would generate funding for critical school repairs and maintenance in WCSD. The proposal needs to be approved by 4 of the 5 county commissioners by Jan. 1, 2014, to be enacted.
Thanks to all of you who have corresponded with me regarding Assembly Bill 46, the school tax passed to the County Commission by the 2013 Legislature. Very frequently people ask me two questions: Why doesn’t the Commission simply send this to a vote of the people? And why don’t we send the entire bill back to the Legislature?
I thought maybe it would be a good idea to discuss these 2 issues in more detail.
Question 1: Why doesn’t the Commission simply send this to a vote of the people?
AB 46 does not allow the Commission enough time to send this question to a vote of the people. I suppose we could have requested a special election to be held before the end of 2013, although there is nothing in the bill that would clearly allow that action.
Also a special election would result in a very large cost to the County and in the current economy the Commission believed that would not be a prudent way to spend taxpayer’s dollars. Because the bill must be acted on before January 1, 2014, there is not a primary or general election prior to the date we must take action.
Nothing in the bill allows the Commission to send this to a vote of the people without taking some form of approval action. In other words, we could vote to approve the taxes with a requirement that it go on the next ballot and if the people vote it down it will sunset.
That would require the Commission to approve the taxes, put the mechanism into place to assure collection, and begin collecting both taxes which again would be a cost to the taxpayers not just for the new taxes but also for enacting them and making changes to current calculations. Again the Commission is concerned about whether this is a prudent use of taxpayer’s dollars.
Question 2: Why don’t we send the entire bill back to the Legislature?
Nothing in the bill sent to us allows the Commission to vote to return the bill to the Legislature. The only way we could actually take such action would be to vote to pass it and take the necessary steps to enact the taxes until such time as the 2015 Legislature takes action to approve the tax by a 2/3rds vote of both houses.
That would in effect place a sunset on it which would sunset the tax after the 2015 Legislature closes in June of 2015 should the Legislature not pass it by a 2/3rds vote. No other action sends this particular bill back to the Legislature. The Commission could vote no on the bill or take no action but that doesn’t technically send it back to the Legislature.
Those 2 actions would simply kill this bill and the process would begin again when the session begins in February of 2015. At that point the No NV Legislators and/or the Washoe County School District could go back to the Legislature and ask for another bill to resolve the issue that WCSD has which is being the only County in the State without a dedicated stream of revenue that is used exclusively for the purpose of repairing existing school buildings.
I hope this brief explanation provides some insight to these two commonly discussed ideas. If not please call me at 775-535-0150.
Marsha Berkbigler is District 1 commissioner for Washoe County, which includes the communities of Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
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