At the capital: A two-faced bill on school construction

Victor Joecks

Hi, I’m Victor Joecks, here in Carson City.

Today, February 4, the Senate Committee on Government Affairs will hold a hearing on SB 119, introduced by Sens. Ben Kieckhefer and Becky Harris.

Do you remember the Batman villain, Two-Face? That’s what this bill, SB 119, is like. Half of it is really good and half is really bad.

The good half of the bill would eliminate the requirement for schools and universities to pay prevailing wage for construction projects. Prevailing wage requirements increase the cost of labor by over 40 percent, and NPRI has found that prevailing wage requirements cost Nevada taxpayers almost $1 billion in 2009 and 2010.

So that’s a great idea.

Unfortunately, the other side of the coin is an authorization for school boards to raise your property taxes for school construction without a vote of the people. Current law allows 10 years of bonding after a “yes” vote, but this law would allow school districts to deem a prior voter approval as being good for another 10 years of bonding.

This would cost taxpayers billions.

Voters in Clark County rejected a more modest property tax increase 2 to 1 in 2012, and in 2013, Washoe County citizens stopped a property and sales tax increase for school construction.

While WCSD and CCSD claim they need new schools, CCSD gave millions from its 1998 bond to the Smith Center and to the city of the Henderson for a swimming pool. CCSD just spent the last of their 1998 bond money to build a gym at a rural high school.

There are two sides to SB 119, but unless the massive tax increase is removed, it’s a loser for taxpayers.

Victor Joecks is Executive Vice President at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan, free market think tank.