Andy’s Newspaper column archive

Please Master, can I have another tax ©

It was January in the year 2006.  The Nye County economy at the time was booming. Construction was in full force. Planning, Public Works and others were awash in money. That was when Nye County put an advisory question on the ballot to increase the county sales tax by one half cent. The money was intended to go, half to the fire department and half tor the Sheriff department for growth.The measure was sponsored by then Commissioner Patricia Cox. The item was presented at the Commission meeting by Bob Howard. He alone spoke in favor of the matter at the meeting. I found that to be very strange at the time and the connection is still not clear why he alone spoke. No one spoke against.

I'm sure there had to be due diligence by County budgeteers, the Comptroller who should be overseeing things like this, the Treasurer, Personnel, department heads that would be affected and banking advisors. There had to be a thorough analysis of the potential future impact this would have on the citizens of Nye County in the future. I cannot even think that this was seen as just an opportune time to raise taxes and expand government because it hurt no one. After all it was just a half a penny and it was expected to raise one half million for the Sheriff department and one half million for the Town fire department.

In July 2006, a special Commission meeting was called to put the vote on the ballot in November. At this meeting it was stated that  the estimated income from the tax was $950,000 in Pahrump and was reported that the figure for all of Nye County was $2,400,000.

The only town board advocating the tax increase was Pahrump. All other Nye County boards were opposed. Legal advisors from the law firm of Swendseid and Stern informed Commissioners that they should not specify that the money would be used for hiring additional help. Clark County had problems with a similar ballot question when they specified allocating the money for police. Town Board member Laurayne Murray whose husband was employed in the Pahrump fire Department was in favor of the tax.

In 2007 the NYE COUNTY SALES AND USE TAX ACT OF 2007 Chapter 245 was added to the State law.  It includes the following:

    " 5.  It is intended that the Board of County Commissioners of Nye County establish a program that promotes community participation in protecting the residents of the community that includes, without limitation:

     (a) A written policy on providing public safety services oriented toward the involvement of residents of the               community;

(3) The proper utilization of community resources, such as local housing authorities, public utilities and local public officials, that are available to assist in providing public safety services; and

(4) Issues concerning not only the prevention of fires and crime, but also improving the quality of life for the residents of the community; and

     (c) The formation of partnerships with the residents of the community and public and private agencies and organizations to address mutual concerns relating to the provision of public safety services;"

I trust Commissioners Schinhofen and Wichman have reviewed the policy referenced in 5(a) above.

The advisory vote passed  by eighteen votes. As an off side, there are enough county government employees,  friends and family voters for this to pass.  It has been written that when the population discovers they can vote to receive other peoples money, it is the beginning of a failure in government. As I said the vote to increase the tax was advisory. It passed but the Commissioners did not put the request in to place. In any case the vote passed. Now we learn that it remains on the books and actionable until 2027.

In a separate but related event, a proposal was put forth to build a new jail, this when there never seems to be enough money for Police protection.. If memory serves me correctly, the County Commissioners bought in to the concept of profit making when the Sheriff proposed the expansion of the County jail. It was requested that the jail would be built to a size far in excess of our local needs and doing it at that time would save money, inflation being what it is. It would also serve the County jail  needs for a long time in to the future. Even better, it was promised that the county would make a profit by taking in prisoners from Clark County. They would pay us to house their prisoners, the county would make a profit and in the long term the jail would not cost Nye County taxpayers anything.

Jump forward now to July 2013. The Nye County economy has been suffering from high jobless rates, business have closed left and right, the county coffers are down, foreclosed homes abound, and it appears the population has shrunk. The Town of Pahrump raised its property tax rate to support its level of spending amidst heavy vocal opposition. Commissioner Schinhofen brought an item at the Commission meeting to implement the half cent sales tax citing the 2006 vote. One of the items supporting the increase was to pay for additional jailers at the new jail. Difficult conditions were cited and it was disclosed that the anticipated prisoners from Clark County are not here meaning the jail will now not be a cash cow but a cash sink hole. The Commission vote to implement the tax failed.

On September 03, 2013 the tax item reappears on the agenda sponsored by Commissioner Borasky who voted no on the tax increase in August. Around town you can hear the new town manager salivating along with the Fire Chief over the possibility of this possible new financial windfall for fire services. There are serious rumblings that money is being wasted, has been wasted on studies and early retirement buyouts, and that there may be issues over government looking out for their own, in deference to the populace. I cannot comment on this part other than to observe and point out the obvious.

This column was written on September 01, 2013. I anxiously await Tuesdays meeting on the 2nd. The County needs to reallocate money, eliminate waste and as they say, man up. The citizens do not need another increase in taxes.

 Andrew Alberti Jr