The fight to help the Washoe County School District fund the construction of new schools and repair projects has come to a close as Washoe County Question One passed last night. The passage of WC-1 comes with high expectations from parent and teacher advocates as well as the community.
WC-1 asked voters to allow the Board of County Commissioners of Washoe County to increase sales tax by 0.54 percent in order to fund the building of 15 new schools and to make repairs to older schools.
According to Save Our Schools Washoe, the political action committee behind the campaign in favor of passing the ballot question, one in five Washoe County schools is severely overcrowded.
Sixty-five thousand children are sitting in classrooms that are overcrowded, that have leaky roofs, some have no safety fencing around their schools and we’re saying to these kids, ‘We value education, education is everything and it is what will propel you in life,’” said Kristie Sheltra, a parent advocate for WC-1.
Opponents to WC-1 raised concerns about the 0.54 percent increase in sales tax. A lawsuit questioning the tactics SOS Washoe used to develop the language on the ballot was recently dismissed.
In the lawsuit filed in early September, Jeff Church, a Reno resident and member of the committee in charge of writing the argument in opposition to the tax increase of WC-1, accused the county of breaking the law regarding how the committees writing the arguments were organized.
The law stated that each committee in charge of writing the opposing and in-favor arguments must be made up of three or less individuals, but no more than three. However, Church alleged the county appointed four members to the committee writing the pro argument.
At the end of October, Deputy District Attorney Herbert Kaplan argued that the County’s mistake was based upon technicalities and is not probable cause to strike the measure from the ballot.
Church claimed he would appeal or file a new lawsuit upon finding out his lawsuit was struck down.
Now that WC-1 has passed, Washoe County residents should expect an increase in the sales and use tax in Washoe County from the current rate of 7.725 to 8.265, according to a Fact Sheet on WC-1 by The Guinn Center. The tax increase is the highest rate of any county in Nevada.
According to Washoe County School District Chief Operations Officer Pete Etchart, Washoe County residents will not see the tax increase until April 2017. The district will not see any of the revenue from the increase until June.
Washoe County School District’s Capital Funding Protection Committee will meet this December to discuss possible projects. After the meeting, the district will either go with the committee’s recommendation for projects, or go on with their own planned projects.
The Washoe County School District estimates that it will receive $781 million in bond revenue over the next nine years, totaling around $86.8 million a year.
“WC-1 is important to me because I think that schools and quality education is the most important aspect of a community,” said Hannah Jackson, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno and a volunteer and outreach coordinator for SOS Washoe campaign. “I am a product of Washoe County Schools, and I want to be an educator in the future. The thought of future generations not being able to experience the kind of education that I got to experience is heartbreaking,”
The district plans on building new classrooms at Damonte Ranch High School and designing new campuses for elementary and middle schools.
Many voters are distrusting of the school district and the board of trustees. It is important to note two things; Primarily, the funds acquired from WC-1 will only fund capital needs, which would be renovating current schools and building new schools,” Jackson said. “None of the money will go to operational needs like salaries, benefits, or programs. Additionally, there will be a new majority on the school board come November. Four out of the seven trustee seats are up for election.”
SOS Washoe and the Educators for Washoe Schools can breathe a sigh of relief after spending more than $886,000 to raise awareness about the measure.