Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 | 7:30 p.m.
A quarter-cent sales tax raising $100 million annually for water and wastewater projects will remain in place indefinitely following a decision Tuesday by the Clark County Commission.
The tax, which was approved by voters by a significant margin in 1998, has raised more than $1.4 billion over the last two decades. The 6-1 vote removes a sunset clause that would have made the tax expire in 2025. Officials from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Clark County Water Reclamation District and other water and wastewater agencies say the tax has been vital in funding reliable water systems.
Proceeds from the tax have been put toward things like funding new treatment facilities, funding the debt service of North Las Vegas’ water reclamation facility and debt service for a waterline connecting Boulder City to the River Mountains Water Treatment Plant.
John Restrepo, an independent economist with RCG Economics, said maintaining the sales tax is important for maintaining a stable revenue source for Southern Nevada’s water and wastewater facilities.
“The tax base in Nevada is somewhat limited and not as broad-based as we’d like it to be,” he said. “From an economic and water security standpoint, it makes sense to keep this important piece of the pie.”
But some critics, like resident Ed Uehling, said the tax is “regressive” and that it “spits in the face of low-income people.”
Uehling added that SNWA operates like a business taking money away from the public.
“This agency has a product to sell and can easily create a lot more money by acting like a business instead of what’s being presented,” he said.
Commissioner Tick Segerblom was the sole naysayer on the vote. He also felt the tax was a regressive one.
“At the end of the day, we’re basically subsidizing water rates,” Segerblom said. “That’s $100 million a year that, looking forward, there’s a lot of other things we could be doing with that $100 million besides water.”
Commissioner Jim Gibson addressed these criticisms in a motion to approve the tax.
“If anyone looks at the history of the legislative work that has been done over decades, we have narrowed the tax base, exempted so many things, all designed to lift some of the burden as much as possible,” he said.