Sales tax and finding a new county manager
March 16, 2014
Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky participates in a monthly question and answer forum online on The Record-Courier's daily Running Commentary. Anyone with questions is welcome to participate in the next scheduled forum on April 2 at 10:30 a.m. For a full transcript of the last forum, go online at recordcourier.com and search "County Manager Q&A: March 12" Here are excerpts of the last forum:
Q. At Monday's state of the county address, you said that sales tax raised in Clark, Washoe and Carson contributes more to the budget than that raised in Douglas. At what point will Douglas face having to raise sales tax on its own?
A. Approximately 26 percent of the revenue in the county's general fund is from the state consolidated tax, which is a formula mandated by state law of taxes collected statewide, such as sales tax, motor vehicle, real property transfer, cigarette and liquor taxes. Since Washoe and Clark counties generate more of this tax revenue than Douglas, we end up receiving more than we generate. We do collect 0.25 percent of the total sales tax in the county that goes to support parks, recreation and library services. Our budget is balanced, but we do have future needs for infrastructure investment, such as roads, stormwater, etc.
Q. Bob asks what can you tell us about how the transition to a new county manager will work?
A. The Board will discuss several actions at its meeting on March 20 at Lake Tahoe to ensure a smooth and productive transition process, including appointment of an interim manager, setting the appropriate salary range for the permanent position and going through a competitive recruitment process. I believe that the Board wants to ensure that the strong team of department heads, elected officials and staff that we have in Douglas County continue to perform at their high level without disruption. We are currently in the middle of our budget process for Fiscal Year 2014-15, building a community and senior center, setting water rates in the Valley and Lake, and supporting main street revitalization. Therefore, the Board is likely to appoint an interim manager that will be able to support these important ongoing efforts and be a good fit for a short period of time over the next six months until a permanent replacement is made.
Q. Walt from Minden said that there seems to be an epidemic of small businesses putting signs on public sidewalks all over town. Example, there is one for a thrift shop at the north exit of Wells Fargo that blocks the sight line of vehicles attempting to exit the northbound traffic on 395?
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A. Thank you for your comment. We will have our Code Enforcement Officer look into the particular issue you mention. Additionally, Douglas County does have a sign ordinance that requires a review and approval for the appropriate size, location, colors and materials of signs in the community. We are currently working collaboratively with the local business community to identify signage that causes traffic and pedestrian safety issues, as well aesthetic concerns.
Q. County commissioners were in Washington D.C. recently. Did they bring back any updates on the Douglas County Lands Bill?
A. Commissioners Doug Johnson and Lee Bonner were in Washington, DC last week for the National Association of Counties legislative conference. The Commissioners met with Nevada's congressional delegation on several issues, including our Lands Bill, which has been introduced in the US Senate. We continue to have productive discussions with Senator Reid, Senator Heller, Congressman Amodei and their respective staff to move our Lands Bill forward. There is ongoing consideration of how our Lands Bill may be complimentary to certain Sage Grouse legislation. We are hopeful that progress on our bill will occur in the Senate and House later in 2014.
Q. The road task force issued its report to commissioners last week. What were its recommendations?
A. In 2013 we formed a citizen task force of 18 local residents to identify viable solutions for road maintenance funding. The group met several times over eight months, including hosting public workshops. The recommendations from the task force include: 1) Douglas County should establish a policy to utilize countywide revenue to fund roads that serve a countywide benefit (collector/regional roads), and local/neighborhood revenue to fund local/neighborhood roads; 2) Douglas County should continue to shift existing revenue from the General Fund to support maintenance of collector/regional road maintenance; and 3) Douglas County should consider the creation of one or more districts in areas outside existing towns and GIDs where the County maintain local roads to levy local property taxes for local road maintenance. The Board took action last week to adopt the first two recommendations and will continue to evaluate the feasibility of the third recommendation. We have made great progress in investing existing funds in road maintenance. We went from $300,000 per year a couple years ago, to $2.3 million after next year for preventative road maintenance.
Q. NDOT is hosting a couple of meetings next week on Kingsbury work. It sounds like the summit will be closed for the first month of work. Can you shed any light on the proposed closure of the grade?
A. Kingsbury Grade from Daggett Summit to Hwy 50 will be closed from May 1st to Memorial Day weekend to everyone except emergency services and buses. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the road will be restricted at night, but open to through traffic during the day. After Labor Day, the road will be closed again for through traffic, except for emergency services and buses. Local residents will be required to access their properties from the Hwy 50/Basin side before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.
Q. Tom asks if the county has in place a specific policy or practice which citizens can use to research county decisions concerning issues of interest such as tax collections, approval of private developments, or the transfer or purchase of water rights?
A. All decisions made by the Board of Commissioners, Planning Commission and other public boards are subject to Nevada's open meeting and public records laws. Any discussion and action on taxes, developments, water rights, etc by a public body is a public record. The information is archived and available through the County Clerk's Office, Recorder's Office, Assessor's Office and in many cases available on our website at http://www.douglascountynv.gov.
From last month:
Q. Walt in Minden asks if anyone noticed that the new gas station at Grant & 395 has a price sign close to 395 that completely blocks the sight angle for anyone attempting to make a right turn off Grant onto northbound 395? Traffic on 395 is moving at 55 mph or higher.
Mokrohisky forwarded this answer from County Engineer Erik Nilssen
With regards to the location of the new sign at Golden Gate Petroleum restricting drivers views coming out of Grant Ave, the Policy of Geometric Design of Highways and Streets states:
Intersections with All-Way Stop Control (such as Grant and Highway 395 with traffic signals)
"At intersections with all-way stop control, the first stopped vehicle on one approach should be visible to the drivers of the first stopped vehicles on each of the other approaches. There are no other sight distance criteria applicable to intersections with all-way stop control and, indeed all-way stop control may be the best option at a limited number of intersections where sign distance for other control types cannot be attained.
So — I agree the new sign does obstruct view from Grant Avenue, but since the intersection is controlled by a traffic signal the sign follows the locally adopted national standard for intersection visibility. I wish the sign would have been set behind the existing utility easements, but since the utilities gave permission for the sign to encroach, there is no problem with the sign location.