An important chance for counties and Carson City to spur roadway improvements via more revenue goes to voters next year, the Nevada Association of Counties’ executive director said Tuesday.
Carson City’s Jeff Fontaine, head of NACO since 2007, made that case to a local Rotary Club luncheon gathering as he reviewed 2016 legislation of interest to his organization and the public. He said it’s significant because of local infrastructure improvement needs, lack of funding both during the recession and now, and that it provides a path to more funding but only with approval from voters.
“This is important because it is an opportunity for additional revenue,” he said, but also because of that vote-of-the-people hurdle.
“It’s county by county,” he said of the ballot question about tying motor fuels taxes to an inflationary index so available revenue could grow. He said that might mean gasoline taxes would differ in different counties, as they do now in this area because Reno-dominated Washoe County voters put in gas tax indexing years ago.
Fontaine said he knows the issue is of importance in Carson City, which operates as a consolidated city-county government, where there’s a backlog in street maintenance. He said because the Reno area has had indexing for awhile, government there has been able “to pay for all kinds of improvements” as indexing allows tax revenues to track more closely inflationary trends that can impact road construction costs.
Fontaine, formerly deputy director and director at the Nevada Department of Transportation, said that background gave him some knowledge of the pressures facing counties and Carson City regarding street repair and road network needs.
Fontaine led his speech with references to enactment of Senate Bill 29, which he called a home rule bill for Nevada’s counties that provides limited home rule on day-to-day local government operations. He said Dillon’s Rule, a 19th century judicial finding, may have been appropriate then to curb local corruption but in the 21st century counties and consolidated city-county operations are sophisticated. He also said they need flexibility.
He put it this way: in Nevada, the Legislature meets every two years while in Carson City, the Board of Supervisors meets every two weeks.
He said the limited home rule bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval gives local government the tools it needs to operate, yet retains oversight for the Legislature. He also said it frees up the Legislature for more important policy matters in the 120 days it meets every other year.