Local governments may derail
CCSD’s bid for new tax

North Las Vegas fails to approve, Mesquite won’t commit to not issue competing levy

On Thursday, the Clark County School District will be seeking approval from the Regional Debt Management Commission for a six-year tax hike.

A recent survey to gauge community appetite for a tax increase reportedly said that 55 percent of those responding — about 400 likely voters — supported a tax increase for school improvements. Forty percent were opposed.

Four former Nevada first ladies — Dawn Gibbons, Dema Guinn, Sandy Miller and Bobbie Bryan — working with the school district, reportedly formed a political action committee to fund the survey. According to R & R Partners, the school district was the contractor.

Polling for the survey was conducted by Anzalone-Liszt Research, which limits its clientele to Democratic Party candidates and union, environmentalist and “progressive” causes.

Nevada Journal spoke to both Anzalone and R&R Partners, requesting the complete text of the survey and its questionnaire, which has not been made public. Neither, however, replied.

Enthusiastic over the survey results, school board trustees in early May authorized a new “capital campaign” to move forward with a question on the November ballot.

“I think it will be foolish, on our part, not to make the ask,” said Trustee Carolyn Edwards at a May 2 board meeting. “I mean, the voters can say, ‘no,’ and that will be their right.”

According to the resolution trustees submitted to the debt commission, the additional 21.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value sought by the school district would cost homeowners $74.20 annually on a $100,000 home.

“Over the six years,” observed Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which publishes Nevada Journal, “that equals $445.20.”

Combined with the school district’s current debt service tax rate of 55.34 cents, he said, the total annual cost to that homeowner would be $267.89. Over six years, it would be $1,607.34.

The school district’s proposed tax increase could prevent some local jurisdictions from raising taxes to a statutorily allowed rate they are not currently assessing.

Consequently, school district officials must notify each affected entity of their proposal, the estimated increase in property taxes and the potential impact of the increase on the affected jurisdiction.

NRS 350.0135 requires that an entity receiving such notice “shall, by resolution, approve or object to the proposal described in the notice.”

On May 16, a motion by the North Las Vegas City Council on Resolution 2477, approving CCSD’s proposal for the special elective tax, failed in a 2-2 split decision.

Explaining that North Las Vegas residents already pay the highest property tax rate in the valley, and that the Council had already determined raising taxes, even for the city’s own current “financial woes,” would be a burden on its residents, Councilwoman Anita Wood opposed the resolution.

“So, after deciding that for North Las Vegas,” said Wood, “to now turn around and say that it’s okay for the school district becomes very problematic.”

According to the Nevada Taxation Department’s 2011-12 Local Government Finance Redbook, North Las Vegas residents have the highest property tax rate in the county with an entity rate of $1.1587 per $100 of assessed value and a cumulative tax rate, from overlapping jurisdictions, of $3.3544 per $100.

Currently, the highest entity property-tax rate of $1.3034 in Clark County is levied by the Clark County School District, according to the Redbook.

“What would happen is, if we gave the authority for the school district to use the 21 cents,” North Las Vegas finance director Allan Zochowski explained to the Council, “we would be limited to a smaller amount if we ever decided that we wanted to raise property taxes in the city.”

Councilman Wade Wagner, although sympathetic to the cause, was also concerned.

“In these economic times,” said Wagner, “I really would hesitate to even open the door for us to tax the residents of North Las Vegas at all.”  

Councilman Robert Eliason and Mayor Shari Buck also discussed similar concerns.

Eventually, Buck moved to approve a resolution on the school district’s proposal, conditional upon the ballot question containing a “strong explanation” telling residents what the special elective tax would mean to the city.

The resolution failed, with Eliason and Buck voting yea and Wood and Wagner voting nay.

Mayor Pro Tempore Pamela Goynes-Brown abstained because she is an employee of the Clark County School District and a vice principal of a school possibly affected by the new tax levy.

No further motions were entertained, so the city council ultimately failed to adopt a resolution — either approving or objecting.

On May 15, the Clark County Board of Commissioners, also sitting as the boards for other affected entities — the towns of Bunkerville, Laughlin, Moapa, Mt. Charleston, Paradise, Searchlight, Winchester and the Mt. Charleston Fire Service District — conditionally approved the school district’s proposal.

The condition was putting a $110 million to $120 million annual cap on revenue generated by the new tax.

Documents presented to county commissioners by the school district demonstrate that the proposed levy would put affected jurisdictions closer to the state’s statutory taxing limit of $3.66 per $100 — with estimates ranging between 74.3 and 98.8 percent.

 

FY 2013
Total
Tax Rate

Proposed
CCSD
Tax Rate

Adjusted
Over-lapping
Tax Rate

Adjusted
Excess Rate
@ Cap of
$3.66

Percent
of
$3.66

Clark County*

$ 3.4030

$ 0.2120

$ 3.6150

$ 0.0450

98.8%

Bunkerville

$ 2.5217

$ 0.2120

$ 2.7337

$ 0.9263

74.7%

Laughlin

$ 3.3483

$ 0.2120

$ 3.5603

$ 0.0997

97.3%

Moapa

$ 2.6161

$ 0.2120

$ 2.8281

$ 0.8319

77.3%

Mt. Charleston

$ 3.4030

$ 0.2120

$ 3.6150

$ 0.0450

98.8%

Mt. Charleston Fire

$ 3.3830

$ 0.2120

$ 3.5950

$ 0.0650

98.2%

Paradise

$ 2.9328

$ 0.2120

$ 3.1448

$ 0.5152

85.9%

Winchester

$ 2.9328

$ 0.2120

$ 3.1448

$ 0.5152

85.9%

*Clark County overlapping tax rate based on the highest overlapping rate

 

 

Notably absent from CCSD’s documentation is the proposed tax levy’s effect on the Town of Searchlight.

According to Section 3 of NRS 350.0135, any affected entity approving a proposal must state in its resolution that the entity has no intent to levy property taxes which, if combined with the increase, would cause the combined property tax rate for the area to exceed the statutory limitation.

While the Mesquite City Council adopted a resolution to approve “the submission to the electors of the District the proposal to levy a special elective tax in the amount of 21.2 cents per $100 assessed valuation,” the resolution adopted struck out all language pledging to not “levy property taxes which, if combined with the Special Elective Tax” would “exceed the limitation on property taxes.”

Mesquite’s city clerk, Cherry Lawson, told Nevada Journal the city’s legal department struck out the language proposed by CCSD before submitting the proposal to the council.

“CCSD provided their resolution,” explained Lawson.  “The legal department modified it.”

The way it was adopted or approved, says Lawson, was with the language in red and the proposed language by the school district stricken.

Lawson did not know if striking through the district’s proposed language was the same as deleting it and referred Nevada Journal to the city attorney.

Lawson did say the document was accepted at face value.

Phone calls to Mesquite’s city attorney, Cheryl Truman Hunt, were not returned by deadline, but striking out text is a widely used method for deleting text.

Also contained in CCSD’s proposal is a resolution from the Clark County Library District — approved, signed and attested May 17.

The City of Las Vegas, with an overlapping property tax rate of $3.2782, was scheduled to consider the special elective tax proposal this morning.

Before the school district’s proposed special tax can be submitted to voters, it must first receive eight of 11 votes from the Debt Management Commission, Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, told Nevada Journal.

Villardo, a 15-year veteran member of the commission, says statutes set a strict process for seeking a special elective tax, as well as strict guidelines on what commissioners can consider and the actions they can take.

She could not predict the legal implications of the failure by North Las Vegas to adopt a resolution, or of Mesquite’s striking of the language regarding NRS 350.0135(3) from its resolution.

She did, however, confirm that debt-management commissioners could take into account the current financial woes of North Las Vegas.

Several options for action are available to commissioners, said Villardo. They include approval, disapproval, conditional or provisional approval and lowering the tax rate.

Karen Gray is an reporter/researcher with Nevada Journal. For more visit http://nevadajournal.com and http://npri.org.

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