The first question asks: “Shall the consent of the governing body of the local government be required before the state legislature can act to decrease revenues or reserves collected by, distributed to, or held by the local government, or impose fees on or mandate new or different services be performed by the local government?”
According to the Washoe County website, the ballot question will advise the Nevada Legislature of whether the majority of the voting public believes the local government should consent before the state can take any action to redirect income or moneys already held by cities, counties or other entities. The question also would advise the Legislature of whether county voters believe the state should be able to pass down mandates without consent of local government.
In the case of the advisory question, “local government” is defined as: “Every political subdivision or other entity which has the right to levy or receive money from ad valorem or other taxes or any mandatory assessments, and includes … counties, cities, towns, boards, school districts and other districts organized pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute.”
A ballot question committee in favor of the question said support of the question is needed to “protect the interests of taxpayers and residents” of the county.
The approval of the consent question is intended to send a message to state leaders “that shifting resources from local government does not solve problems for the long-term and should not be allowed to happen without an agreement of local governments,” the committee said.
A ballot question committee, which is composed of citizens in opposition to the consent question, argue that the question “reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the powers of state and local government.”
The committee said the state should maintain the ability to allocate resources, and the Legislature should have the option of moving money and duties between government agencies, especially in a time of financial hardship. The cities and counties should have a say in the fiscal affairs of the state, according to the committee, but should not be able to make final decisions on where revenue will be directed or taken from.
“Limiting the ability of the legislature to shift resources to meet the needs of the state only increases the likelihood higher taxes will be imposed,” the committee said. “If we as citizens have an issue with our state Legislature, we should contact them directly … and voice our concerns at the ballot box.”
The committee compared the question to children telling their parents they should have to obtain the child’s legal consent to make decisions regarding their education.
“The state has 17 counties,” the committee said. “Like a parent, no state leader … should be required to obtain legal consent of local governments to fulfill their obligations.”
“The state, as a parent, has not done well with the family budget,” the committee in favor said.
The committee in favor compared the “parent” justification to a parent raiding a child’s piggy bank and college fund to pay bills, regardless of whether the child worked to earn the money themselves. Local taxpayers expect to receive local services in return for their money, the committee said.
Advisory question two asks voters: “Should separate governments of Reno and Washoe County pursue a consolidation of the two governments if such consolidation can be shown to reduce costs and/or improve service?”
Sparks would not be included in the consolidation because the City Council in July voted to oppose combining governing bodies. The council voted 4 to 1, with Councilwoman Julia Ratti casting the lone dissenting vote.
The council said it has been “committed to maintaining the city of Sparks as a full-service city at less cost than other governing bodies … it does not support and regional government consolidation that would change the form of government of the city.”
If the advisory question passes, it would not authorize consolidation, just a comprehensive feasibility study. The Reno City Council and Washoe County Board of Commissioners would pursue consolidation if it was determined that services could be improved and costs reduced.
In order for a consolidation to take place, a plan would have to be submitted to the Legislature for approval. After being approved, it would be placed on the subsequent general election ballot, where voters would have a final say.
A citizens committee in favor of the question argue that in the current recession, “implementation of additional operational efficiencies is essential to survive this crisis that will, in the long run, result in fewer duplicative services, reduced overlapping services and smaller and less complex local government. Governance, administrative services, public works, public safety, public records, judicial, public buildings, parks, vehicles and equipment maintenance, and information technology are just a few of the areas in which significant improvements are possible.”
A committee of citizens who oppose the question say it is sneaky in nature because the question does not directly address a “study.”
“Proponents of this initiative are attempting to divert your attention from their agenda to create a local mega-government,” the committee said. “When given a choice to join this mega-government, Sparks said ‘no thanks’ because they provide more responsive, more efficient services.”
Opponents fear centralization and consolidation will lead to higher expenditures and will put leaders out of touch with their constituents.
“This initiative would create an entity ranked among the nation’s 50 largest cities,” opponents said. “Reno would abandon its historic identity as the ‘Biggest Little City in the World.’ ”