ELKO – County commissioners heard mostly positive comments for raising the sales tax a quarter percent to help pay for road and fire district infrastructure Wednesday during a public hearing.
Elko County’s current sales tax rate is 6.85 percent and if the increase is approved the rate would go up to 7.10 percent.
Assistant County Manager and CFO Cash Minor said the county has continued to grow, but the funds to maintain the roads, such as the gas tax, have remained flat. The fire district was an unfunded mandate from the state that the county took over this year and does not have much funding to support it. The projects completed with the money raised would be “pay as you go,” he said.
“The continued growth in the county has a large impact on roads,” Minor said. “We have a lot of high-capacity roads.”
If the commission approves the tax increase, it would become effective no sooner than March 1. The tax is also set to expire 15 years after approval.
The fiscal impact to a family of four that makes $80,000-$90,000 a year would be $39.
Assistant County Manager Randy Brown said traffic flows have increased “substantially” throughout the county. He said the main areas of concern are Osino, Ryndon, Deeth and South Fork.
Other than the roads, the main concern for county staff and those in attendance was maintaining the fire district — considering the average age of all the fire vehicles is 27 years.
Several members of the public gave their support to the sales tax increase.
Matt McCarty, co-chair of the Elko Area Chamber Government Affairs Committee, said his group voted in favor of the tax. He said the chamber has 800 members and none had voiced an opinion against the issue.
The majority of the people who spoke for the tax increase were firefighters throughout the county.
Spring Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bret Murphy said the public has an expectation that firefighters will show up at the scene and do their jobs to protect life and property.
“If we don’t have the proper tools to work with, if we don’t have the equipment, then we can’t do our job,” he said. “Not only can’t we help the public, we can’t help ourselves. We can’t keep ourselves safe.”
Commissioner Demar Dahl said Wednesday’s meeting was a first reading on the possible sales tax increase and the county will decide the issue during a hearing in October.