Washoe County Faces Litigation Over Ballot Question - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Washoe County Faces Litigation Over Ballot Question

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The Washoe County School District has a ballot question that would raise the county's sales tax in order to build new schools and repair old ones.  Experts say WCSD needs $781 million to build 15 new schools, including three high schools.  To raise the money, voters will decide on WC-1, which would raise the sales tax by .54 percent, from 7.725 percent to 8.26 percent.

Jeffrey Church opposes the question, and is part of the committee that presents the argument against its passage.  On September 6, he filed a lawsuit against Washoe County, saying it violated state law by allowing Registrar of Voters, Luanne Cutler to appoint the committees.

"The registrar, without any approval from the county commissioners, appointed four people to the pro committee, two people to my committee," Church said. "Right away, it's like two heads are better than one, four are better than two.  They put us at a disadvantage, but more importantly, there's no tie-breaker with two.  So, when there's a dispute or anything, it kind of nullifies it."

Washoe County would not comment to Channel 2 News because the matter is being litigated, but they did issue this statement:

The 2015 Nevada Legislature mandated the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners to submit to Washoe County voters the recommendation of the Public Schools Overcrowding and Repair Needs Committee (SB 411).  Washoe County School District Ballot Question (WC-1) will appear on the Nov.  8, 2016 General Election Ballot. A complaint has been made regarding the manner in which required committees were formed to write arguments for and against WC-1 by one of the members of one of the committees.

Pursuant to a resolution adopted on March 22, 2016, the Board of County Commissioners authorized the Washoe County Registrar of Voters to appoint members of the public who volunteered to participate in this process as contemplated by NRS 295.121. Volunteers on both committees began their work in late April. 

Arguments for and against have been written and submitted. The two member committee opposing the question reached a stalemate on the rebuttal to the proponents’ argument. The stalemate persisted throughout several extensions of deadlines. Ultimately, the Registrar‘s looming deadlines for translation and printing forced the decision to move forward without a rebuttal to the proponent’s argument. 

“As always, our goal is to be able to provide our voters with as much information as is available in order to help them make an informed decision when they go to vote,” said Washoe County Registrar of Voters Luanne Cutler.

The tax increase would be $54 for every $10,000 spent. Proponents say it is a small price to pay to ease school overcrowding.

"One in three schools in Washoe County are in need of critical repair, meaning they have asbestos, leaking roofs and failing ventilation," Alex Bybee, Organizer of Save Our Schools Washoe said. "With the passage of WC-1, we can make those critically needed repairs and build new schools to alleviate overcrowding."

Church agrees that overcrowding is a problem in Washoe County, but he says the problem with WC-1 is the tax does not end when the monetary goals are reached.

"It's a poorly-worded, never-ending, bate and switch ballot measure," Church said.

"The repair needs of physical structures don't sunset, and so the revenue streams to fix them shouldn't sunset either," Bybee said. "So, we're looking for permanent solutions so that we don't get into this mess again."

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