A committee chaired by former Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey has decided to proceed with placing a question on the November general election ballot seeking voter approval for a tax increase to generate at least $600 million to build new schools and renovate others in Washoe County.
The Public Schools Overcrowding and Repair Needs Committee, authorized by a law passed by the 2015 state Legislature, took the action last week and will now have to create the details of the ballot question.
Under the law, the committee, which is independent of the Washoe County School District, has the authority to ask voters to consider increases in five different taxes: sales, property, car registration, hotel rooms and real-estate transfers.
The committee decided that the ballot question would address either an increase in the sales tax or property tax or both, Carey said.
“We kept both of those two on the table because they produce, in modest increases, the kind of dollars that would solve the problem,” he said.
The ballot question details, including the amount of the increase, still must be set by the committee, which decided that the tax hike needs to raise at between $600 million to $800 million for school construction and repair over a nine-year period.
The committee must have the ballot question written by April. The next committee meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22. Carey said he thinks work on the ballot question can be finished by the end of February.
“I know one thing,” Carey said. “I know there are hard choices to make, but the price of doing nothing is too high.”
Washoe County School District Superintendent Traci Davis and school board President John Mayer issued statements thanking the committee for its decision to move forward with the ballot question.
“The committee’s vote…affirms that overcrowding and funding in our schools is a real and serious issue that the district cannot overcome alone, and that the residents of Washoe County must be given the opportunity to provide their input via one of our most sacred rights and privileges: voting in free elections,” Davis said.
The committee’s membership includes representatives from the Legislature, local government entities, the PTA, teachers union, labor, and various business groups.