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City wants tax distribution favorable to urban areas
by Joshua H. Silavent
Feb 13, 2012 | 1213 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - Water drips through cracks in the concrete of the C Street parking garage in Sparks on Monday morning. The City Council approved a contract for repairs to the garage during Monday’s meeting.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Water drips through cracks in the concrete of the C Street parking garage in Sparks on Monday morning. The City Council approved a contract for repairs to the garage during Monday’s meeting.
SPARKS — The Sparks City Council approved a letter Monday asking a state finance committee to avoid creating “winners” and “losers” when it considers changes to the formula for distributing tax funds to local governments — but not before adding stronger language to emphasize the city’s financial struggles to maintain public safety and other service levels.

Though some municipalities across the state are pining for a larger share of the local government tax distribution account, or CTAX, city Finance Director Jeff Cronk said Sparks simply wants the formula to remain unchanged.

This can be accomplished, the letter states, by maintaining the current distribution model and maintaining each agency’s base distribution in the event of a decline in revenues.

However if changes are going to be made, Cronk said he would like to see the focus tweaked toward more funding for urban areas, such as Sparks and Reno, with the potential for business growth.

In the letter, the city recommends that the fiscal year 2012 base distribution lean more toward cities that grew quickly in the past 20 years. Growth outstripped distribution of resources after the base distribution was established in the 1990s, according to the letter.

“In other words,” according to the letter, “the economic landscape is very different now due to past rapid growth, and the cities need an opportunity to ‘catch up.’”

Assembly Bill 71, enacted during the 2011 state Legislative session, created the CTAX Committee to study the allocation of revenue distributed from the local government tax distribution account.

The subcommittee’s chair, state Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, asked each local government to send a letter outlining issues with the current CTAX distribution. The letters are due by Feb. 24.

The CTAX committee is expected to hold six meetings during the interim session. City staff will participate in the process to represent the interests of Sparks.

“I think everything will be on the table,” Cronk said, adding that he expects a comprehensive review from the process.

The city’s letter is not a bill draft request and does not contain legislative language.

“(It is) merely our contribution to this discussion going forward,” city spokesperson Adam Mayberry said.

The city’s letter also asks that the CTAX allocation formula be simplified and reviewed every 10 years to make sure it reflects the current economic climate.

Cronk said that the current formula is little understood.

Councilwoman Julia Ratti requested that an introductory paragraph be added to the letter that reflected the city’s concerns about maintaining public service levels in a time of shrinking tax revenues and a growing population.

In other news, the City Council awarded a $574,000 contract during its regular council meeting Monday to Q&D Construction for a rehabilitation project on the C Street parking garage in Victorian Square.

According to city staff reports, the garage, built in 1987, is in overall good shape but cracks that cause water to leak from floor to floor need to be repaired to prevent further damage to the structure that would shorten its life.

Finally, the City Council heard the first reading of a proposed ordinance change that would make it easier for food trucks to conduct business in Sparks.

Currently, food trucks and other mobile vendors are not permitted to operate within city limits without first acquiring a temporary-use permit. However, such permits are restrictive, limiting the number of days and places mobile vendors can operate.

“That doesn’t work for what some mobile vendors are trying to do,” City Planner Jim Rundle said last month.

The code amendment would set three primary regulations.

First, mobile vendors would have to acquire a business license. Second, they could only operate on private property. And, finally, they could not operate within 300 feet of a restaurant with taxable sales.

There is no limitation on the number of hours mobile vendors can operate in a given day, however they could not operate in the same location for more than four hours within any 24-hour period.
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