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July 7, 2006

Sales tax hike causes deadlock



A special meeting of the Nye County Commissioners was set for Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., after the commission deadlocked 2-2 Wednesday on a proposal to put a half-cent sales tax increase proposal on the November ballot.

The meeting will be teleconferenced at the county commission offices at 1510 E. Basin Ave.

Commissioners need to decide to put an item on the ballot before July 17.

Commissioner Patricia Cox, a proponent of the increase, was absent. Commissioners Joni Eastley and Roberta "Midge" Carver voted against the motion.

Half of the increase would go to the Nye County Sheriff's Department, half of the money toward fire protection services.

The measure would increase the total sales tax paid in Nye County from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent.

It is estimated that approval of the half-cent sales tax increase would provide another $950,000 in revenue annually for the Pahrump Valley Fire-Rescue Service and the Nye County Sheriff's Office, Pahrump substation.

The city is home to over 80 percent of the county's population.

Countywide, roughly $2.4 million would be realized.

"It's time to see if the people want to pay more to have more staffing here. At budget time we'll have our answer," Commissioner Candice Trummell said.

But Eastley said, "Every town board with the exception of Pahrump said they don't want this on the ballot."

Trummell replied, "We're talking about ignoring the board that represents about 75 percent of the population (of Nye County)."

Interim Nye County Manager Ron Williams said legal advisors from Swendseid and Stern told the board not to specify that the money would be used for hiring additional help, after Clark County had problems with the police union following a similar ballot question.

He said that would bind the county to having some issues down the road.

Williams said Nye County Emergency Services Director Brent Jones endorsed the proposal.

"We should not address that at all, as far as what you do with the money," Williams said.

Pahrump Town Board member Laurayne Murray told commissioners it was important the citizens have a chance to voice their opinions on what should be done to fund more police and fire protection services.

Murray said Pahrump town board members only wanted to be sure the money doesn't go toward increases in pay for existing staff.

"This is not for the commissioners to do this. This is an advisory question to the voters," Nye County Commission Chairman Gary Hollis said, attempting to remove the onus from the back of the commissioners in making the decision.

But Eastley said the whole county would be paying taxes to pay salaries for sheriff's deputies and firemen in Pahrump.

The revenues from the additional sales tax would be proportioned to Nye County communities based on population estimates by the governor's office, not the county planning department, Williams said.

"Property taxes in Pahrump are less than anywhere in the county," Wickman said. "Don't you have the ability to raise the taxes in that area to get the services you need?"

Trummell said Nye County commissioners don't have the ability to raise property taxes in just one part of the county.

Eastley said all of the other Nye County communities are at the maximum property tax cap of $3.64 per $100 of valuation allowed by state law except Pahrump.

Williams also indicated the upcoming session of the Nevada Legislature may have to change state statutes for the sales tax proposal to work. He didn't elaborate.

If the commissioners want to put the sales tax proposal on the ballot it needs to be approved by the third Monday of this month, or July 17, the day before their next regularly scheduled meeting, Williams said.

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