County’s 5-cent diesel tax takes effect July 1

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Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

The 5-cent diesel fuel tax passed by the Lyon County Commission earlier this month will take effect July 1.

Although Lyon County voters rejected an advisory question in 2018 that would have allowed the Commissioners to propose a 5-cent diesel tax, Governor Steve Sisolak in 2019 signed a bill allowing counties and municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents to impose a 5-cent diesel tax.

County Manager Jeff Page said based on the amount of diesel sold in the county in 2018, it would have generated between been between $2.1 and $2.2 million. Page said the city of Fernley would receive approximately 38 percent of the money generated by the tax, and under that formula, Fernley would have received about $900,000 based on those 2018 numbers.

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In a budget meeting the same day, Fernley City Manager said the money will go into a fund held by the Regional Transportation Commission, which is governed by a board comprised of three members from Lyon County, one from Fernley and one from Yerington. Rather than go directly into the city’s budget, to get access to the money, the city instead would present a proposed project to the RTC, which would then dole out the money requested for the project.

The money can be used only for road maintenance, Page said, although he said at least a portion of the money that goes to the State would be used to build truck parking areas.

“It won’t be used to maintain some road that leads to one house,” Page said. “The plan is to use it for arterials and connectors.”

The county received no responses to a Business Impact Statement it produced and resented to businesses within the county. In that report, the county estimated it would generate $2.5 million in the first year.

The motion to approve the diesel tax passed by a 4-1 vote, with commissioner Ken Gray opposed.

Because the county charges a 9-cent per gallon gasoline tax, but nothing on diesel fuel, Page said the tax would reduce the inequity where drivers of diesel vehicles don’t pay anything toward road maintenance.

But Gray said he doesn’t believe the tax solves the fairness issue, pointing out that elective vehicles also pay nothing. Because the bill exempts agricultural diesel usage, Gray also said most of the money from the tax would come from people who don’t even use county roads, instead passing through on state or federal highways.

“The vast majority of people are going to be those who stop in Fernley using truck stops,” Gray said. “I have a hard time with this one.”

Commissioner Joe Mortensen argued that the county needs the revenue.

“This is a vote for or against better roads in Lyon County,” Mortensen said. “It’s a yes or no vote for over $2 million in funding for Lyon County.”

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