Counties describe budget woes

Nevada's budget woes have trickled down to make the upcoming year a wrenching one for cities and the state's 17 counties.

Washoe County is projecting a $12 million drop in property tax revenue to its general fund in the fiscal year beginning July 1, and Clark County expects at least a $30 million drop, the third year of decline.

"It's a perfect storm," said Jeffrey Fontaine, Executive Director of the Nevada Association of Counties, after a Thursday legislative hearing before the Assembly Taxation Committee.

Counties were temporarily sheltered from the collapse of the housing market by AB489, a law passed in 2005 that limited the amount a property tax bill can increase in a given year. As assessed values shot up, then dropped, counties were allowed to bill property owners on the "abated value" - the amount property owners did not have to pay when assessed values were high because the law prevented steep jumps in tax bills.

But counties have collected most of the money in the abated value category, and property tax bills have now dropped in line with the assessed values of homes, leaving counties with less to work with.

The falling revenue comes as the governor's proposed budget shifts some state programs or costs to county control. The estimated cost of Sandoval's budget is $125 million each year in Clark County, and $25 million each year in Washoe County.

"We simply do not have the capacity to absorb the tremendously negative fiscal consequences of these current budget proposals," John Breternitz, chairman of the Washoe County Commis-sion, wrote in a letter to Sandoval's chief of staff.

Nevada cities have watched their property tax revenue drop 16 percent and their consolidated tax, which includes sales tax, drop 18 percent in the past three years, according to the Nevada League of Cities. Police and fire staffing in Nevada cities also dropped 11 percent.

City cuts mainly affect police, fire and municipal services, while county cuts affect hospitals, social programs and regional services, said League of Cities Executive Director David Fraser.

Sandoval's budget proposes continuing a 9-cent property tax redirection for Clark and Washoe counties, a measure approved in the 2009 legislative session that was slated to sunset June 30. County lobbyists say they will fight the plan, pointing out county-run services such as University Medical Center in Las Vegas that will suffer under the governor's budget



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