RENO, Nev. (April 26, 2016) – The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) Board has voted to take a position of “Significant Engagement” in support of the proposed sales tax increase to fund the infrastructure needs of the Washoe County School District (WCSD).
The Board takes this position after a thorough review of the relevant issues and materials of the Save Our Schools Capital Funding Initiative. The EDAWN Board believes that if the capital needs of our schools are not addressed, EDAWN’s ability to attract companies, retain existing companies, and facilitate entrepreneurial job creation will be adversely impacted.
Additional considerations include:
- WCSD is currently overcrowded, well before new companies, like Tesla and Panasonic, even start hiring thousands of new employees. We currently have over 220 trailers being used as classrooms all across the district, enough for 6 elementary schools.
- The Washoe County School District (WCSD) is severely underfunded in terms of the dollars needed for both building new schools and refurbishing and maintaining older schools, many of which are over 50 years old.
- Our K-12 public education is a top concern for incoming companies and the talent we must recruit to the region to sustain our economic success. The option to turn our schools into trailer parks of portable classrooms, with over 600 more to be added to the 220 existing trailers if this initiative does not pass, will clearly demonstrate our lack of commitment to this important issue.
- Nevada has a systemic problem with property taxes. We are the only state in the nation that depreciates real property values. We also have a 3% cap on the increase in property taxes (but no cap on the decrease) annually. While the demand is increasing, the primary funding source for the school district’s capital needs, property taxes, is constrained and at times decreasing.
- The recent $1.1 billion tax package passed by the Legislature does not provide one cent to fix this infrastructure problem. This increase in education funding is for programs and operations, not school buildings. New programs were created, but not the space to house them.
- If this initiative does not pass, Washoe County parents and students are looking at double sessions in our middle and high schools. That will mean a 6 am start time for half the students (that may require a 4:30 am bus pickup for some students) and unsupervised time at home after noon when they get out, or before noon if they have afternoon sessions.
- The initiative includes a provision to address accountability. There is a “Citizen’s Oversight Committee” that will oversee the expenditure of the funds provided by this initiative and provide any changes to the school board for approval. The School Board would not be able to change or override the committee’s recommendations without first sending it back to the committee for consideration. This process provides plenty of community input and media attention to ensure the proper use of these funds.
- This measure will increase the sales tax rate in Washoe County by 0.54%, from the current 7.725% to 8.265% and will raise an estimated bonded amount of $781 million over nine years. This would cost the average family of four just $80/year ($1.50 per week).
Leigh Goddard, the Chair of the EDAWN Board said, “EDAWN is very selective in engaging in political issues and initiatives, but after a thorough investigation into the Save Our Schools Capital Funding Initiative, the EDAWN Board is convinced that the organization’s ability to effectively accomplish its primary mission, quality job attraction, retention and entrepreneurial job creation, will be adversely affected if our school infrastructure funding crisis is not addressed.”
The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is a private/ public partnership established in 1983 committed to adding quality jobs to the region by recruiting new companies, supporting the success of existing companies, and assisting newly forming companies, to diversify the economy and have a positive impact on the quality of life in Greater Reno-Sparks.
EDAWN, Associate Business Development