Carson City officials wary of property tax relief

Carson City's wish list for the state's 73rd legislative session is pretty light, City Manager Linda Ritter said, but that won't make it a boring year.

The city and its lobbyists are keeping a close eye on lawmakers, trying to gauge where they will go with the popular idea of property tax relief. A major priority this year will be making sure growth plans aren't skewered by one of the myriad property tax bills circulating through the state's Senate and Assembly.

Legislators are scheduled to outline three plans - a tax cap, a freeze and a complicated formula - on Tuesday.

In areas like Dayton, Incline Village and Clark County, property values have skyrocketed over the past year and tax-weary residents there are crying out for help. But officials in expanding cities where taxes have increased but not exploded say they won't be able to keep up with the influx of people into the nation's fastest-growing state without increasing revenue.

"I think there's a recognition that we do need property tax relief but not in a way that alienates local governments and school districts," said Mary Walker, Carson City's lobbyist.

Most variations of a property tax cap, municipalities say, would hamper local governments' abilities to provide basic services to residents. Especially two of the three proposals legislative leaders will unveil Tuesday.

A freeze would be devastating to Carson City and every other government in the state, said the city's former finance chief. A tax cap would be only slightly better.

All tax cap proposals that have been created so far by Nevada's Legislative Counsel Bureau would might be fine for Clark and Washoe counties, she said, but not for the rest of the state.

"Smaller jurisdictions' (tax revenue) would stay flat."

A palatable property tax bill, for many local governments, would be one that acknowledges which areas are in dire need of relief and which aren't.

"I'm hoping the third proposal will do that," Walker said.

The city's bills

Of five bill draft requests Carson City supported at the beginning of the session, two have been withdrawn, including a measure that would have allowed land owned by city officials to be included in redevelopment districts. A portion of property tax collected in a redevelopment district is dedicated to revitilazing that particular area.

The city also withdrew a bill seeking a 1Ú8 of a percent sales tax to fund storm drainage projects after Carson City voters rejected the proposal last fall.

Another bill requested by the city that would keep group homes from locating where city zoning or neighborhood codes prohibit them is being reviewed by the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Ritter said it may not pass legal muster.

Still alive is a bill requested by the Nevada Association of Counties that would allow counties to increase gas tax along with inflation. Increases would be decided county by county and would have to first receive voter approval. It's already in place in Washoe and Clark counties, Ritter said.

Also still alive is a bill that would allow the city to use a portion of property taxes from a designated piece of land and put the funds toward things like bringing utility lines to the parcel.

"Now all we have is redevelopment," Ritter said. "There may be a better way."

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 8811217.


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