RENO, NV (AP) — Washoe County voters have approved hiking the local sales tax half a penny to raise $780 million for school improvements in the Reno-Sparks area over the next 10 years.

Backers called the new bonding authority badly needed to help alleviate school overcrowding and a $1.1 billion backlog in capital needs.

Washoe County voters rejected every previous school bond measure put to them over the past 12 years.

This time around, the Coalition to Save Our Schools mounted a $1 million advertising campaign in support of the tax increase, and a district judge shot down a late legal challenge intended to keep the measure off the ballot.

It permanently raises the local sales tax from 7.725 percent to 8.265 percent — the highest rate in the state.

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