Joseph Maino, The Fernley Reporter
The first thing Mayor Roy Edgington and City Manager Daphne Hooper want residents to realize about the Fernley Advisory Question is that it is not a vote for a new tax.
So just what is an Advisory Question and why do the citizens of Fernley need to vote on it?
In 1868, Judge John Dillon ruled that, “Municipal corporations (cities and towns) owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist.”
In other words, the city can not do much of anything without the blessing and the consent of the state legislature. Nevada is a Dillon State, therefore the city of Fernley has almost no taxing authority and must go to the state legislature to ask permission when it comes to taxing its citizens, even when that tax will only be used to improve the lives of its people.
Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington is getting the word out about the Advisory question, but as fixed by law, he, nor the city government, can advocate for passage or defeat of the Advisory Question. Edgington can only present facts.
“We have 1950’s tax laws,” Edgington said. “In the 1950’s you bought 70 percent of your goods, so you paid taxes on 70 percent of the goods you purchased and 30 percent on services. Today it’s reversed. But we only tax goods. The state legislature has held firm for a decade or more on a cap for property taxes. We are within a nickle of that cap. We asked for an increase, we got nine-hundreds of a cent this year. That does not even cover our inflation.”
There are many steps to getting a city tax approved.
“The way this works is that if the voters approve the Advisory Question, we’ll go to the Nevada legislature to ask permission to move ahead on a tax proposal,” Edgington said. “If approval to move ahead is given by the legislature, then we’ll come back and pick 10-15 citizens, ask them to volunteer, and then set a guideline for what we want to do. The committee of Fernley citizens will then recommend what the city needs to do and which taxes should be considered to accomplish those goals. Then we’ll go back to the voters and the voters will get to vote on them.”
City Manager Daphne Hooper stressed that the city must find sources of revenue that only goes back to the city of Fernley. One possible consideration includes a city tax on diesel fuel, because Fernley does not currently tax diesel.
“Nevada is a state with 3 million people,” Hooper said. “Two million live in the southern part of the state. Many people in our legislature do not know rural Nevada and have never been to Fernley. Decisions are made by people who have never worked with a rural city. It’s part of our struggle to educate them so they can make good decisions.”
She adds, “Compared to other rural towns, we have a small city staff for the size of our population. We are diligent about the things that we do.”
Many residents question why more taxes are needed to run the city.
“People do not understand what it takes to run this city,” Edgington said. “A few years ago we got $140,000 in road taxes. Today $140,000 does not even allow us to put in street lights. The cost is now well over $100,000 per street light and the state requires two of them. I’m not even talking about a stop light.”
Edgington adds, “A mile of road now costs a million dollars. It’s not just building the road, but you have to have sidewalks, utilities, get an environmental study and many other things. What does a new ballpark cost? They just built three in Vegas and it costs $3.5 million (about $1.2 million per park). We can’t just go to Lowe’s and buy a swing set. It’s got to be ‘industrial size’, something specifically manufactured for a city park.”
In general, here’s what happens with the city’s advisory ballot question:
- The citizens vote on the Advisory Question.
- If the Advisory Question is approved by the voters, the city can go to the legislature to get approval to go ahead with proposals.
- Citizen volunteers would discuss the needs/goals of the city and develop several options regarding possible taxes.
- The citizens’ proposal(s) are brought to the City Council to discuss and to have further input by the citizens and a final draft of the proposal(s) go to a vote before the citizens.
- If a new tax is passed, the citizens vote every 8-10 years to continue or to stop the tax.
To watch and listen to Mayor Edgington discuss the ballot question, click https://youtu.be/F376QjeMq7I.