Construction tax increase – everyone wins but the builders
With Douglas County commissioners scheduled today to consider a plea by school district officials to raise the $1,000 residential construction tax to $1,600 per home, Tahoe Citizens Committee members are among the top supporters.
“We’re in favor of the tax increase – hopefully this will help to ease the negative impacts that growth in the valley has had upon the school district,” said Mike Jabara of the TCC.
With three of the district’s five oldest schools at Tahoe, the TCC has long contended that lake property taxes have helped subsidize new and expanding schools in the valley, resulting in the neglect of facilities at the lake.
The proposed construction tax increase would be a step toward the rapidly growing valley to finance its own expansion, said Jabara.
And for once, the TCC and the Douglas County School District are in agreement.
“We see it as an equitable way to raise funds – new homes do impact the county,” said DCSD Board President Cheri Johnson. “I think it will offset some of the differences between the lake and county because there are relatively few new residences at Tahoe. Without (the increase) we would have to postpone some of our plans for capital projects.”
The construction industry opposes the tax hike and resents being singled out, said DCSD Finance Director of Business Services Rick Kester, but the increase – which would bring in an extra $300,000 to $400,000 – is “a reasonable one.”
Since the $1000 fee has not been raised since 1990, Kester said the added $600 is simply an attempt to keep pace with inflation.
Last year, the Nevada Supreme Court shot down a $2,400 “fair share” construction tax earmarked for schools.
“That made things harder for our growing school district because we’ve promised our community there wouldn’t be another bond until 2002,” said Johnson. “Douglas has trouble passing bonds. People in Douglas County are fiscally conservative – they want to make sure money is well spent.”
After building two new schools last year, Kester says the tax increase would now help them in addressing the needs of the district’s older schools. The district’s 1997-98 budget allocates more than $1.5 million in capital projects funds to lake school facility upgrades, with major construction scheduled for the summer of 1998.
In addition, roughly $463,000 of Building and Sites expenditures went into smaller lake maintenance projects completed this summer. But rapid growth in the valley continues.
“The district has done what they said what they were going to do this year at the lake,” Jabara said. “But I hope to see continued improvements at Tahoe’s three lake schools. Despite the recent upgrades, the lake schools facilities still fall short of those in the valley.”
Under law, the construction taxes can only go toward school land purchases, renovations, building new schools or purchasing equipment.
“This is a good tax in that it only taxes those causing the impact,” said Jacques Etchegoyhen, chairman of the Douglas County Commission. “It ought to be more, but this will certainly help. Hopefully this will address some of the concerns that Tahoe constituents have.”
Etchegoyhen said he expects the board to approve the tax increase, as the county has traditionally supported development paying its own way.
“I hope the commissioners approve this – it’s one of our most significant sources of ongoing tax revenue,” said Kester. “The increase is not a tremendous amount, but it’s a way for growth in the valley to help pay for itself.”
In a separate action scheduled for today’s meeting, the commissioners are expected to promote Ron Pierini from undersheriff to interim sheriff. As interim sheriff, Pierini would lead the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office during the final year of recently retired Sheriff Jerry Maple’s unexpired term.
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