Patrick Pittenger guest column: Your Carson City gas tax dollars at work

Your gas tax dollars are at work in Carson City. Federal, state and local gas taxes are collected daily at gas stations in Carson City, and put to good use. We at Public Works are taking this opportunity to share more information about the use of current funds and explain where your gas tax dollars are used.

Gas tax dollars are used by the Carson City Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) for many uses. NDOT is currently using state and federal gas tax funds to construct the next segment of the Carson City Freeway. A private contractor from Sparks is building this section which is going to further reduce traffic on local Carson City streets. State gas tax dollars can only be used to fund roads in Nevada.

The city uses local and federal gas tax revenues every day. Local gas tax dollars are used to pay for many costs associated with roads, including striping of centerlines and crosswalks, electricity for streetlights, snow plowing, maintaining traffic signals, and filling potholes. Some of these dollars are spent on employing Carson City Public Works employees, and some are spent on private contractors and vendors. These contractors are part of our local and regional economies. The city also has transferred millions of dollars to the state to contribute to the Carson City Freeway project. Local gas tax dollars can only be used to fund roads in Carson City.

The city also uses federal gas tax dollars. When these funds come back to Carson City, they are rarely used for maintaining pavement. However, they are beneficial to the city by allowing the city to hire contractors to build sidewalks, bike paths, landscaping along the freeway, and to operate our bus system. The JAC bus system is primarily funded with those federal gas taxes and the rest is a local match from the city’s General Fund — no local gas tax revenues can be used.

What’s not commonly known is the folks who drive the buses are not city employees — the city uses the services of a contractor to operate the system at a more effective cost.

While much good work takes place, our roads are not being maintained as they should be. The reason is straightforward — insufficient funds. Why? Because the one funding mechanism we have — the gas tax — doesn’t stretch as far as it once did. Gas tax rates have not changed since the 1990s. Since then, the city has added miles of roads through various methods, including transfers from the state, while selling less gallons of gas in Carson City than in the past. Residents often call us about pavement issues as our roads are aging. We appreciate these calls, and wish we could do more to address this citywide issue. We’re frequently told if we don’t address an issue, it’s going to cost more to fix it later — and we agree.

The Carson City RTC recently awarded a contract to a private contractor to rebuild a portion of Little Lane using local gas tax funds. We expect to award another such contract in the fall for a well-used portion of Division Street. These are important projects, but it’s difficult to prioritize projects when there’s not enough funding to meet our needs. The Board of Supervisors recently acted to transfer additional (unbudgeted) sales tax revenues (about $300,000) from last fiscal year to the streets fund. This is unprecedented and is certainly going to be used as effectively as possible, but the needs still far exceed the available funding. There will be an opportunity for the city’s voters to weigh-in on a potential funding solution, but that will not be on the ballot until November 2016. If that ballot measure is approved, which entails indexing the gas tax rate, Carson City is going to be able to make real progress in maintaining and improving the street system starting in 2017.

As the Transportation Manager, you can contact me at any time. I value your input as we look for future solutions to this important issue. A great option for contacting me is email — my email address is If you want to talk, my number is 283-7396. I look forward to hearing from you.

Patrick Pittenger is the transportation manager for Carson City.


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