January 20, 2006
Tax increase could go to votersCOX: ADDITIONAL SALES TAX WOULD HELP FUND UNDERSTAFFED POLICE, FIRE, PARAMEDICS IN NYE
By PHILLIP GOMEZ
The one-half-cent tax increase, proposed last September, would have "to be looked at as a whole," meaning a countywide initiative approved by the voters of all Nye County, Cox said.
The purpose of the measure also has to be explained to the voters on the ballot, she said, indicating that county staff would have some explaining to do in writing the pros and cons of the measure.
Cox sponsored the agenda item, originally presented by resident Bob Howard, in order to provide extra revenue to meet the emergency needs of the county's 10 fire departments.
The sheriff's office, too, has been continually short of funding to meet its personnel and equipment needs with Pahrump's current population growth pattern.
Under the proposal, the half-cent increase would be split between the sheriff's office, on the one hand, and the town fire departments on the other, one-fourth cent of the raised revenue going to each.
The increase would raise the current sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent, a 50-cent increase per $100 spent in the county. The increase is expected to raise approximately $1.2 million annually for the sheriff's office and another $1.2 million for the county's volunteer fire departments.
"It's an alternate way to bring in revenue," Cox said, indicating that tourists would pay their share of the tax, relieving some of the burden for homeowners and landowners who pay property taxes.
"It's one way to offset the funding for both the sheriff's office and the fire departments without having to raise property taxes," Cox said in an interview Thursday. "And these two are the ones in desperate need of revenue due to the growth we are experiencing."
According to Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall, grant money formerly obtained from the U.S. Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department - a major source of grant funding for the sheriff's office - was not as readily available for funding payroll costs for narcotics officers, administrative personnel and other manpower needs as it has been in the past.
This was due to the war in Iraq, Marshall said, which has diverted the nation's priorities.
Marshall also has stated that anticipated growth rates for property tax collections could not be counted on to meet the sheriff's office personnel needs within a "safe-zone" ratio of deputies to population growth in the county.
The Nye County Sheriff's Office currently has 146.5 employees, according to Marshall. Pahrump is woefully underserved in terms of manpower when compared to national averages in both law enforcement and firefighters and paramedics.
Cox said she expected the tax initiative to come back before the commission within the next month, when it will formally be voted on in deciding whether to place it on the November ballot.