Martini touted the new Sparks logo and branding theme “It’s happening here” as a promotional conduit to attract tourists to Sparks. The logo doesn’t indicate what is happening here or where “here” is. It probably should have read “Something’s always happening here in Sparks.” But to its credit, the Sparks City Council temporarily abandoned the festival and clown idea and the new brand might be effective.
Martini indicated that during the last three years, there has not been an increase in population, unemployment has risen and new development has slowed. Taxable sales have fallen sharply, property taxes are shrinking and other taxes, fees and permits are down considerably. So what’s the solution?
Martini said it’s time to do some soul searching, chart the course towards more realistic organization with the appropriate resources to provide essential services, reform Nevada’s current tax structure and that “the state needs to stop capping revenue growth for city and county governments.” So, will reforming the state’s tax structure actually benefit the taxpayers of Sparks?
Well, by petitioning the state, allowing Sparks to increase property tax rates, fees and sales taxes and charge a sales tax on all services, the city can generate enough revenue to pay for its redevelopment districts, STAR (Sale Tax Anticipated Revenue) bonds and bail out the city council for fiscal errors it made during the last decade at the taxpayers’ expense. Sounds like a plan to me.
Martini says he wants more autonomy, but what he is really talking about is home rule and that will never happen. The state had a good reason for placing a cap on local governments’ ability to increase taxes. It forced communities to live within their budgetary means and thoughtfully plan future redevelopment districts and the use of STAR bonds.
Most everyone knows redevelopment districts siphon off most future increased property taxes within the district to finance bonds for the so-called blighted area. These taxes would normally be part of the general fund providing services for all of Sparks’ residents and the school district. Instead, we are paying for the enhancement of property values for a select few and the Legends at Sparks Marina at taxpayers’ expense. If the bonds issued for redevelopment districts can’t be paid because of a decrease in property taxes in the special districts, the burden of payment falls on all of the property owners in Sparks. We not only lose any increased property taxes from development in the good times, but we have to make up the shortfall on any loss of property taxes during hard times.
The same is true for STAR bonds. If the Legends cannot pay for the STAR bonds, ultimately, the burden will fall on all the residents of Sparks. Maybe Martini’s plan for realistic organization and the use of appropriate resources providing essential services for “all” of Sparks should have been considered years ago.
It’s estimated there will be an almost $5 million shortfall in the Sparks budget within the next two years, requiring more job cuts, fewer services and less revenue available to finance new bonds. But as Martini lobbies the state for tax reform, he should seriously consider “confining” any proposed increase in sales tax, future service tax and property taxes to redevelopment districts and STAR bonds projects. This would stimulate business for merchants outside of the hallowed walls of special districts, create more competition, balance tax advantages and give the consumer more options.
During this financial crisis, Martini, the City Council and staff should be given credit for taking responsibility, making tough decisions and meeting the challenges of the times. However, it will take more than leadership to change the state’s tax structure benefiting individual communities at the expense of the state. If anything, the state will probably increase our local taxes for its own benefit, relegating Martini’s leadership to the chambers of city council rhetoric.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.