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Nye County voters won’t cast ballots on a new diesel-tax this year — and here’s why

The special election to decide if Nye County will establish an additional diesel fuel tax has been postponed, with Nye County commissioners voting this month to send the ballot question to the 2024 general election.

The reason for the delay was two-fold; while the estimated price tag to put together a special election was a major factor, commissioners also expressed their belief that holding off until the next general election would result in a stronger turnout and therefore, a truer picture of how voters feel about the proposal.

During the Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting, commissioners received a report from Nye County Clerk Mark Kampf outlining what it would take to organize a special election this year. Included was a cost breakdown as well as a detailed overview of the timeline that would need to be followed.

Kampf said the special election would have to be conducted in the exact same manner as a normal general election and therefore, the associated expense would be similar.

The gross cost of the last general election was $181,557 but $62,634 of that total was reimbursed by the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, bringing the net cost to $118,923.

In the case of a special election, the county would not have to spring for the annual Dominion incensing fees and the cost of the ballots themselves would be lower, so the special election would run an estimated $130,864. However, with a special election, the county would not see any form of reimbursement.

“We would fully incur all the costs of a special election. We have to have mail-in ballots, we have to have early voting, we have to have all of our polling locations open,” Kampf stated. He added that the $130,864 figure does not factor in county clerk staff’s time, either.

It was also noted that Kampf’s previous estimate of $30,000 to $40,000 to hold a special election was misstated, with commission chair Bruce Jabbour clarifying that the price is about that amount per region in Nye County.

If the commission were to favor a delay, Kampf explained that the diesel tax ballot question could simply be included on the 2024 general election ballots for a fraction of the cost, at just $4,300. “That would just be the cost of publishing those additional pages in the sample ballots and the notices we have to put in the paper,” he said.

When it came time for the board to debate the item, Jabbour immediately made his standpoint clear. He said he was always for the idea of taking the diesel tax question to the voters but, “I am not OK with spending $130,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a special election.”

“To me, a special election is a faux pas,” commissioner Debra Strickland remarked. “We decided we didn’t want to make this decision for the people, they should make this decision. And if they don’t normally go to a special election, we’re not going to get that representation.”

Commissioner Frank Carbone, having already discussed the matter with Nye County Manager Tim Sutton, was in favor of delaying while newest board member, Ron Boskovich, said he simply wanted to ensure that such a decision is made by the people, not the commission.

As for commissioner Donna Cox, the thought of postponing was obviously something she did not like.

“If we have any problems in the county, I think it’s roads,” Cox asserted. “I just tried to go home for lunch and it was packed with people… and I am afraid that is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s going to happen because we have so many new homes going in… If we don’t start now, we’re going to have such bad traffic jams it’s going to be ridiculous.”

Cox was alone in her opposition.

Strickland made the motion to direct the Nye County clerk to proceed with placing the ballot question on the 2024 general election ballot. The ballot question language itself was also approved as reading, “Shall Nye County levy an additional 5-cent per gallon tax on special fuel that includes diesel fuel for the exclusive purpose of construction and maintenance of public highways?”

The motion passed 4-1 with Cox the sole dissenting vote.

Rationale for the tax

Nye County is the third-largest county in the U.S. and there are more than 640 miles of asphalt roadway and another 387 miles of chip-sealed roadway that the road department is responsible for maintaining. As detailed by the information presented at the county’s diesel tax workshops last year, a 5-cent per gallon diesel tax would bring in an additional $425,000 to help maintain those roads. The county collects a 9-cent per gallon tax on gasoline but does not collect any taxes from the sale of diesel.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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