Assembly Democrats push to allow school districts to impose new fee on homeowners

CARSON CITY — In a mostly party-line vote Monday evening, Assembly Democrats voted 23-16 for a bill that would allow Nevada school boards to impose a $2 fee per month on each housing unit to raise money for vocational programs.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, said school districts face “budget challenges” and cannot always win public support for needed projects.

“We need to allow them to raise revenue to meet their needs,” said Anderson, D-Las Vegas, a possible reference to the defeat of bond issues in Washoe and other counties.

But Republican members called the bill a “property tax increase,” and every present member, with Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, voted against it.

Two Democrats were absent. Tyrone Thompson, the replacement for ousted Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, won’t be seated until Wednesday.

The bill goes to the Senate, where Democrats have an 11-10 advantage. Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed to veto any tax increases, and Assembly Bill 403 lacked, at least in the Assembly, the two-thirds majority to overcome a veto. That makes its chances of becoming law doubtful.

Democrats, however, have contended the governor’s education budget is at least $310 million short of what should be spent. They have asserted education spending needs to be increased this year, not sometime in the future. Sandoval has proposed a $135 million increase in public school spending.

In the bill, the $2 tax is called a fee. The monthly fee would apply to each taxable parcel of land of an acre or “portion thereof.” That means a homeowner would pay $24 a year if a school board authorizes the fee.

Limits would be placed on the fees that can be collected on agricultural properties and multi-residential units. The fee could be collected on a maximum of 100 acres for agricultural or vacant land.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Skip Daly, D-Sparks, and discussed in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Assembly Education Committee but not in the Assembly Taxation Committee.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, noted, “We killed a similar bill in Taxation (Committee),” when he objected to how the bill reached the Assembly floor.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.