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Additional School Tax Levy Wins Place on November Ballot-Video
Posting Date: 06/12/2012

By Barbara Ellestad

After two key hearings and votes at the end of last week, an additional school tax levy will be on the November ballot for voters in the Clark County School District (CCSD).

The Clark County Debt Management Commission gave its okay to the ballot measure last Thursday, June 7, followed by the CCSD Board of Trustees' approval on Friday, June 8.

Joyce Haldeman, CCSD Community and Government Relations Liaison, appeared before the Mesquite City Council, May 22, asking for its approval of a resolution saying the Council "has no intent to levy property taxes which, if combined with the Special Elective Tax, would cause the combined property tax rate for the area to exceed the limitation on property taxes set forth in Nevada Revised Statutes."

The Council instead approved a resolution that was less than that. New language inserted in place of the District's proposal simply said, "the governing body hereby approves the submission to the electors of the District the proposal to levy a special elective tax in the amount of 21.20 cents per $100 assessed valuation."

Haldeman said the substitute language would harm the District's efforts to win the Debt Management Commission's approval of the tax issue but apparently it didn't since the levy measure was ultimately approved.

The ballot measure will add the 21.20 cents on top of the .5534 cents homeowners and business owners already pay, for a total of 76.54 cents on every $100 of assessed value.

If approved, the Virgin Valley High School is slated to get a new gymnasium. It's the only school in the Mesquite area that would benefit from the tax increase. Moapa Valley High School in Overton/Logandale would receive major capital improvements and a new gymnasium.

During the Council discussion in May, Councilman Karl Gustaveson remarked that two things scared him about the proposal. "One of them is when we look at the unfunded liabilities down the road. I don't see an end to this. It could be going on for a long time. The other thing is that we haven't taken any property tax increases for a long time. The community has a really hard time [with tax increases]. I think that has to do with the number of retirees we have living on fixed incomes. A high percentage of our retirees have part-time homes here. The taxpayers deserve an opportunity to say how they feel about it."

Haldeman agreed with Gustaveson to a point but added, "I want to point out is that this is a six-year program. This will expire at the end of six years. It may expire earlier than that. It will not exceed the amount we have talked about. You would have to double your current tax rate to use up the cushion you have. I can't image you would do that."

The requirement of the statute is for you to let the Debt Management Commission know that you do not have an intent to use up that cushion that's available to you. I agree the taxpayers have to make this decision. We recognize this will be a tough sell."

"We are very proud in this community that we haven't used property tax increase mechanisms to fund anything," Councilman George Rapson remarked. He is the Mesquite Council representative on the Regional Debt Management Commission. "We have a lot of people on fixed incomes. We have people that can't afford it. It's a meaningful increase. On an assessed value of $200,000, which we have in this town, that's about $425 a year."

Rapson added that "My biggest concern are some of the businesses like Mesquite Gaming that has tens of millions of dollars of assessed value. They just came out of bankruptcy. This is a real problem for people who are struggling today. I have a fundamental concern about taxes in general. This is not a message of support in any way. It's just a

statement that the City of Mesquite has no intent to raise its taxes at this point."

Haldeman disagreed with Rapson's math and replied that "according to the District's calculations, the increase would equal about $74 a year on a house with an assessed value of $100,000. On a home with an assessed value of $200,000, the increase would be about $150 a year. Our situation has gotten to the point where we have to ask the question."

Councilman Kraig Hafen asked City Attorney Cheryl Hunt about the affect of adding the deleted portion back into the resolution.

With the portion that the Council took out that the District wanted re-inserted, she advised the councilors that the language "guarantees that the Council has no intent to raise above the [State maximum] level. In essence it ties your hands if you needed to [raise taxes]."

"I think the voters need to decide," Hafen said.

Haldeman added that "you have a lot of room," to increase local taxes before they exceed the Statute limitation.

"We're kind of proud of that," Mayor Mark Wier quickly replied.

The Nevada Revised Statutes limit property taxes to a maximum of $3.66. Combining the CCSD tax with taxes imposed by Clark County, the State, the Library District and the City of Mesquite will equal $2.99, leaving a 67 cent cushion. It was pointed out in the discussion that Mesquite has the lowest city tax rate in Clark County.

"How much money from the 1998 bond has been directed to this area," Wier asked Haldeman.

She explained that the Virgin Valley Elementary School was built in 2004 at a cost of $13.2 million, Hughes Middle School was built in 2003 for $21.7 million. The Virgin Valley High School was built in 1991 at a cost of $3.9 million. The high school received another $13 million to renovate its heating and air conditioning system and install a science lab. "I think the District has kept you in mind. We have a good relationship with Mesquite, making sure we're aware of your needs."

"To emphatically state that we have no intent [to raise taxes] at the moment is true. That intent can change with economic conditions," Rapson continued. He added that the statement is much stronger than if the voters approve the levy and then "it is what it is."

"If you intend to raise taxes, you would still have 67 cents you could raise before you get to the ceiling," Haldeman reassured Rapson.

Haldeman explained that the Debt Management Commission was responsible for determining if the request kept government entities within the State required tax cap and not a referendum on the merits of the tax increase.

The amount collected by the District cannot exceed $120 million a year if voters approve the issue in November. Haldeman explained that would only happen if property values shot back up.

"We're not against kids. We're not against education," Hafen said. "We don't like taxes. We understand the need. In six years some of us won't be sitting here. In a couple years, some of us may not be sitting here. We are binding councilmen who may get elected. If the voters decide they want it, we're in. Does our language not accomplish what you need to take to the Debt Management Commission," Hafen asked Haldeman.

"It's not our language. It the Nevada Statute requirement that this language goes to the Debt Management Commission," she replied. "The Commission would have to consider that you sent in something that didn't meet the Statute. They will make a decision from there."

Hafen made a motion to keep the substitute language that the Council had inserted and not the District's recommended language. The motion passed on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Al Litman as the lone nay vote.

With the actions of the Debt Management Commission and the CCSD Board of Trustees, voters indeed will have the final say in November.

The video includes a full presentation of the new tax levy as Haldeman explained it to the Mesquite City Council.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 06/13/2012
    Not sure if you received my original comment. Long story short, has the Council ever explored the option of joining forces with Moapa to become it's own independent school district. Our taxes seem to support all of the larger Vegas issues and not address the issues in the Virgin Valley. There are plenty of funds available for rural school districts. As a former administrator from a large urban district, I know how resources get parceled out to provide services to the neediest schools and the schools in this town are certain to be at the bottom of the list. Is there anyone at City Hall who can do this cost analysis?
    By: J
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  • Posted Date: 06/17/2012
    Rapson is correct, $425. for $200,000. valuation. Say no to this additional tax. Stop overspending. We need private sector jobs now.
    By: harvard2
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