If passed by legislators, AB 46 would authorize a ¼ percent increase in the sales tax in Washoe County and a property tax increase in Washoe County of $0.05 per $100 of assessed value. It would also allow the revenue WCSD currently receives from the Government Services Tax (GST) to be bonded. The GST provides only a small percentage of annual capital funding.
AB 46 is expected to generate approximately $20 million annually to fund the repair, replacement, and maintenance of aged and failing systems and equipment at all schools and district sites across the county. According to UNR’s Center for Regional Studies, the combined tax increases are expected to cost the average family less than $8 per month.
Funds generated by AB 46 would enable the district to pay for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of equipment including heating and ventilation systems, plumbing systems, roofing and pavement. Performance of these crucial maintenance operations would help prevent further deterioration at schools and district buildings.
“The Chamber and our members know how important it is to have an educated, highly-skilled workforce,” said Len Stevens, executive director of The Chamber. “Education and economic development are intrinsically linked and this effort will ensure that our future employees have adequate facilities in which to learn.”
Support for AB 46 is coming from all corners of the community. Members of business groups including the The Chamber, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), and Associated General Contractors of Northern Nevada agree the funding is badly needed, and are supporting the district’s bill.
For the past decade, the Washoe County School District has funded capital projects with revenue from a rollover bond approved by voters in 2002. Unlike every other school district in Nevada that have access to other funding sources for capital projects, the rollover bond was the Washoe County School District’s only major source of capital projects revenue.
Currently, the district has identified approximately $511 million in capital needs at its schools and buildings over the next 10 years. These projects are currently unfunded, and there is no funding source in place to pay for these crucial capital needs. The majority of those needs (approximately $300 million) are for necessary maintenance and repairs.
District officials say they are asking state lawmakers to approve AB 46 because school properties are relatively old and consequently are in need of repair. Sixty percent of district schools are more than 30 years old, and 25 percent of schools are more than 50 years old. The district maintains more than 7 million square feet of building space for which there is a constant need for maintenance, upkeep, and repairs.
Although AB 46 would not generate enough funding to meet all of WCSD’s current needs, district officials say the funding would help protect the community’s investment in its schools by generating revenue for repairs, replacement, and maintenance until other funding sources could be identified and pursued. As economic conditions allow, the district might consider asking voters to approve other sources of revenue that may include a rollover bond to finance the construction of new schools and major revitalization projects.
The 77th session of the Nevada State Legislature will convene on Monday, Feb. 4. The Washoe County School District will support the bill as the session begins. WCSD will continue to seek input from parents, staff, business leaders, lawmakers, and the community about the capital funding issue.
For more information about the WCSD’s bill or to engage in the conversation, visit www.washoecountyschools.org.