I received an invitation from Reno radio station KKOH to participate in a debate on AB 46, the proposal to raise our real estate taxes by $0.05 and Washoe County sales taxes by a quarter of a cent to provide money to maintain and repair schools.
The program was moderated by Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey (R-Reno). My opponent was Washoe School Board Vice Chair David Aiazzi who had served 12 years on the Reno City Council and was elected to the school board in 2012.
Readers will recall that AB 46 could not attract the 2/3 vote necessary for passage so it was modified to delegate the tax increase power to the Washoe County Commission.
Aiazzi began by citing that Washoe County is the only Nevada school district that does not have an independent source of revenue for property maintenance and repair and that many school buildings are over 50 years old.
I replied with my “AB 46 arsenal” pointing out that such delegation to a five person board is of doubtful validity under the Nevada Constitution which requires the votes of 28 assemblymen and 14 senators to raise taxes.
I added that AB 46 is a dangerous measure which would override two important taxpayer protections: (1) the statutory cap on property tax rates of $3.64 per $100 of assessed valuation, and (2) the 3 percent limitation on the maximum annual tax increases on personal residences; moreover AB 46 would set a disastrous precedent inviting every taxing agency in Nevada to go to the legislature and ask it to “delegate” taxing authority to boards and commissions which may have significantly different political leanings than the legislature.
Additionally, a tax increase, particularly one which rides roughshod over existing taxpayer protections, will discourage businesses from moving to Nevada and will drive Washoe County consumers to the Carson/Douglas commercial core.
I also pointed out that the school board has made no effort to liquidate excess property (such as the 8+ acre site of the old Incline Elementary School) to replenish the capital account and that the new K-12 budget is $500 million higher than the last one; the Washoe School District’s share of that will be $75 million which can be used for routine repairs and maintenance.
Finally, I pointed out that the Facilities Management and Capital Projects staff of Washoe County School District have performed abysmally as evidenced in the independent Council of Great City Schools report now posted on the school district’s website.
Aiazzi brushed over my constitutional point and again bemoaned that Washoe is the only Nevada school district that does not have a tax revenue source for maintenance and repair.
Aiazzi said that he understood that the increased school operating budget has already been committed to raises and benefit increases.
He alluded to a public comment by former Commissioner Jim Galloway with whom he sat on the 2002 Rollover Bond Oversight Committee. Galloway said: “I must sadly conclude that this committee was neither effective nor sufficient for preventing financial mismanagement, The committee received only what information was volunteered by the school district — except on rare occasions when the committee members already knew enough (from other sources) to ask the right questions an demand specifics.”
Aiazzi said that he agreed with Galloway but that now things have been corrected. Reminded of the Great City Schools Report, he said he just wants to see what requirements the commissioners are going to impose as a condition of a “yes” vote.
In the 21 years I have lived here, the county commission has not once raised taxes. Aiazzi and the school district have a steep hill to climb.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.