City of Reno Stormwater Utility Fee
From Joe Panicaro, activist, paralegal, concerned Citizen of Reno
The City of Reno is proposing a “stormwater utility fee (essentially a tax) which will be imposed on all Reno property owners. Obviously, landlors will pass the tax along to renters. The language of the proposed ordinance can be found at www.reno.gov/stormwaterutility.
The public has been referred to Reno Chief Engineer Jon Simpson for any questions. Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-689-2961. A group has been formed to fight this tax.
Joe Panicaro has talked at length with Simpson about the tax. Simpson calculated the monthly stormwater tax for Panicaro’s Reno home at $25/month. He also calculated a $53/month tax on a 3150 sq ft commercial building on North Virginia St.
Simpson said, if passed, this new tax has no sunset provision and is anticipated to generate $15-20 M annually. Contrary to that stated in the newspaper, there was NO mention of elimination of ANY of the sewer fees that we now pay. According to Simpson, stormwater is currently funded through 5% of the City’s Sewer fee.
As Panicaro pointed out, with the City’s unrestricted growth, more and more sewer hookups occur each year, equating to more and more sewer fees from which to fund the stormwater account. According to Simpson, the stormwater budget has already been set at $5M for 2023. If the new tax is passed, Simpson said it could be implemented on July 1, 2023. Thus, the City would get a windfall of $7.5-10M more than budgeted for 2023.
When Panicaro pointed out to Simpson that Panicaro lives on a private road with NO sidewalk, curb, gutter or storm drain, and asked what service would he be paying for, Simpson simply answered that water from Panicaro’s property would eventually go to a storm drain somewhere, but couldn’t tell him where.
When Panicaro informed Simpson he hasn’t even seen Panicaro’s property in order to make such an assumption, Simpson offered no reply.
Panicaro informed Simpson that stormwater floods the underneath of Panicaro’s house and his neighbor’s front yard, to which Simpson had no response. Simpson said that there was less stormwater generated from Panicaro’s property when it was a vacant lot, before it was improved. But when Panicaro asked Simpson to provide the stormwater figures before and after improvement, Simpson could not.
When Simpson told Panicaro that he should consider maintenance of the stormwater system like maintenance of his own car with oil changes and tire replacement, Panicaro responded that he only does those as needed and not on a weekly or monthly basis.
Simpson told Panicaro that the stormwater drainage system is deteriorating. When Panicaro asked how much life remained in the system, Simpson could not answer. Panicaro responded that upon installation, everything begins deteriorating.
Simpson added that much of the stormwater drainage system had been installed incorrectly. Yet, instead of going after the contractor who made the incorrect installation, taxpayers are being made to foot the bill.
Where were the City inspectors when the drainage was improperly installed in the first place?
When Panicaro asked when this improper installation was first discovered, Simpson could not answer.
Simpson mentioned that flooding of the train trench needs to be rectified. Yet ¾ of a billion dollars was spent in its construction. Why wasn’t flooding addressed at its conception? And, who approved this project, which apparently didn’t take flooding into consideration?
Simpson said flood walls need to be built downtown around the river near Arlington. Panicaro pointed out that years ago, the City dumped a bunch of boulders into the river to create a “white water” kayaking park at taxpayer expense. Not only do the boulders alter the river’s natural current, but they pose an obstacle for floating debris to catch on. When Panicaro asked Simpson if the boulders have created a potential flooding problem, Simpson could not answer, only stating that he was employed at the City when the kayaking park was built.
Simpson also rattled off what appeared to be every bridge in Reno, except for the one at Virginia St, saying these need replacing which will also be funded under the proposed stormwater tax. Of course, Simpson did not convey how much life these bridges still have left in them.
When Panicaro asked Simpson if the items Simpson mentioned for stormwater funding were simply the City’s “wish list”, Simpson answered “yes.”
As Panicaro pointed out, many people have wish lists but must live within their means. As Panicaro pointed out, Simpson himself probably wishes that he lives in the gated section of Caughlin Ranch, drives a Mercedes and vacations in Europe.
When Panicaro asked Simpson where’s all the tax revenue from pot sales going, Simpson answered he did not know. Likewise, Congress passed a huge infrastructure bill in 2022. Where’s that money going? As Panicaro pointed out to the Mayor, this stormwater tax will effect lower income people the most, such as those on fixed incomes. Are these people to forgo their medications and doctor visits so they can pay this new tax? Renters will be affected as landlords will pass the tax along.
When Panicaro asked the Mayor why the tax is not being placed on the ballot for citizens to vote on, she answered that was a good question. Panicaro informed the Mayor that the tax appears to be an unfair one as only Reno property owners will be taxed and not Washoe County property owners, who use the same bridges slated for replacement. In fact, the Nevada Constitution states that taxation must be
uniform, just and equal.
After Panicaro pointed out the unfairness of this tax, he was informed that the City is now looking to get the County involved with the stormwater tax. Panicaro informed the Mayor that people are absolutely outraged proposed tax and there’s talk of a recall.
Although the group is not in agreement to ANY amount for a stormwater utility fee, it did find many points made by Dave Aiazzi to be good ones in his February 21, 2023 article appearing in the “ThisIsReno” publication. For instance, Aiazzi mentioned that the City hired the consulting firm Raftelis to advise on funding for the stormwater utility. As Aiazzi points out, Raftelis advised $6.4M annually over 5-7 years. Now the City is proposing a tax nearly 3 times the Raftelis amount with no end point. The Aiazzi article appears as follows: https://thisisreno.com/2023/02/stormwater-utility-is-coming-is-it-too-much-opinion/
Aiazzi also stated that Reno citizens already pay 1/8 cent for flood control [in our sales tax]. He goes on to point out that “voter voted down an increase in taxes in 2018 to further fund flood control.” With regard to bridges, Aiazzi states “they are clearly Regional Transportation Commission projects” [not City projects].
According to public records obtained from the City, the consulting contract with Raftelis was not to exceed $865,406 and the amount expensed shows $598,812.50. How many unfortunate people could’ve been fed and clothed for this amount?
Opposition to the stormwater utility tax can be sent to the following:
Reno Chief Engineer Jon Simpson
email@example.com or 775-689-2961
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve
Councilman Devon Reese (At-Large)
firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-334-2014
Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus (Ward 1)
email@example.com or 775-334-2011
Councilwoman Naomi Duerr (Ward 2)
firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-334-2017
Councilman Miguel Martinez (Ward 3)
email@example.com or 775-334-2012
Councilwoman Meghan Ebert (Ward 4)
firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-334-2015
Councilwoman Kathleen Taylor (Ward 5)
email@example.com or 775-334-2016
Tyler Shaw (Community Liaison for Brekhus & Duerr)
Abigail Mayorga (Community Liaison for Martinez, Ebert & Taylor)
Bill Dentzer, Reporter Las Vegas Review Journal
firstname.lastname@example.org (This email bounced back undeliverable)
Amy Alonzo, Reporter Reno Gazette Journal
Letters to the Editor
KOLO News Channel 8
Terri Russell, Reporter KOLO TV Channel 8
Jon Ralston, Reporter Nevada Independent
KTVN News Channel 2
Joe Hart, News Anchor Channel 4
Channel 4 News
Letters to the Editor Reno News and Review
www.renonr.com (I couldn’t find a way to leave a Letter to the Editor. Let me know if you do.)