Tax Cap Stymies School District

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New schools are being put on hold and other options will need to be considered as Washoe County school administrators grapple with lower revenues because of a property tax cap imposed by the Nevada Legislature.
Superintendent Paul Dugan said the tax limit will cost the
district $45 million this year in construction and maintenance
money, and about $300 million over the next seven years.
"We will be unable to do all that needs to be done," Dugan
said. "Some hard choices will have to be made by the community and
the school district."
Dugan said plans for a $95 million career and technical high
school have been suspended, along with construction of a new
elementary school in southwest Reno that had been planned for 2007.
Expansions at McQueen High School and Incline Elementary also
are on hold, he said.
Dugan said trustees also will need to consider other ways to
deal with the loss of revenue. Some possible options include
redistricting, double sessions and year-round schedules.
In April, lawmakers approved a property tax increase limit of 3
percent for homes and 8 percent for apartments and commercial
property in response to skyrocketing property values in Clark and
Washoe counties.
"We wanted to take that action and felt good about taking that
action," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City and the
chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee.
"But we were also aware that there would be some consequences.
Now, we need to get all the information about this and see where we
go from here."
Some officials said voters may be asked to consider new funding
sources, such as impact fees on new homes and transfer taxes on
existing home sales.
The school district plans to conduct a survey this month to
gauge public support for new taxes to build new schools.
"I'm sure there are people out there for whom any talk of taxes
is going to be perceived as negative," Trustee Lezlie Porter said.
"But I would hope by the (2006) election that we have made our
case for the needs.
"We won't build if we don't have the money," she said. "The
reality may be that we go to double sessions. Who knows?"
Washoe County is in worst shape than other counties because its
only source of school construction and renewal money is selling
bonds repaid with county property taxes, the Reno Gazette-Journal
Clark County gets money from real estate transfers and hotel
room taxes, Washoe officials said. Smaller districts such as Lyon
and Douglas counties also receive money to build schools from
impact fees on new home sales.
"The Washoe County School District, in my opinion, is in
extreme financial distress," said Trustee Galen Mitchell.