Proposed budget approved by commissioners

Douglas County's tentative budget is balanced at just over $151 million, but many funds, including social services and the general fund, are stressed. Douglas County officials want to redistribute county property taxes to meet core county needs.

County Manager Dan Holler said the move will hopefully position the county to take advantage of the new tax rate process, tied to the 3 percent tax cap that was passed by the Legislature in 2005.

County staff is also recommending tax increases for new development, that move expected to bring another $160,000 in revenues annually.

Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed budget and increase at a special budget hearing Wednesday.

"Existing homes and businesses won't see a change in their rates," Holler said. "But new developments will be paying more."

Douglas County's general fund, 911/communications, room tax and social services funds are all stressed and among those, Holler said he is most concerned about social services.

The fund provides everything from food vouchers to energy assistance and long-term care and county statistics show the demand is growing. The number of people served by food vouchers doubled from 2004 to 2005, the most recent figures available. Long-term care costs this fiscal year, which ends July 1, have already exceeded the previous year's totals.

"Those services are mandated by law. They're growing and we don't have the funding," Holler said. "The (property tax) cap has created a real funding challenge."

About $32 million in property taxes is still in taxpayer's pockets as a result of the tax cap, a number that could have easily funded demands for these services and more, including the criminal justice system, Holler said.

Douglas County is required by law to pay for long-term care when seniors can't afford the service and demands for long-term care is one of Holler's deepest concerns, he said.

An effective center could keep many seniors out of long-term care and the purchase of land for a new senior center is being recommended by county staff, Holler said.

A decline in room tax revenues coupled with a shift in some of those funds for promotion of Lake Tahoe a few years ago has meant a substantial decline in the room tax and senior services funds, from a high of $730,000 in 2002-03 to a projected $615,000 for the upcoming year.

In addition to senior services, these revenues fund Douglas County's Parks and Recreation Department.

"We've gutted the parks division over the last 12 years," said Scott Morgan, community services director. "Our operating budget was higher in 1994 than it is today."

The department has lost eight full-time positions since then, but park employees have taken on additional responsibilities, including Kahle and Stodick parks, median strips, a parking garage, the Elk Point pathway system, shooting range and skate park, Morgan said.

"It's been a point of pride, that the employees are doing more with less, but there's nothing to cut at this point except utilities and manpower," he said. "The only way we can continue to balance the budget is through attrition."

Parks and recreation staff members have created programs residents are willing to pay for and that has helped to offset costs, Morgan said.

The general fund budget, which provides resources for the largest number of services and programs, relies heavily on a diminishing diversified revenue base. Increased property values account for 25.2 percent and state consolidated taxes, (mostly sales tax) account for 43.2 percent of new revenues, according to county figures.

"Reliance on these revenues will continue to place pressure on the county to pursue new sales tax-generating opportunities, especially in light of property tax limits," the report said. "Ultimately, the County will need to consider the adoption of other revenue options, including business licenses, utility operator fees, allowed sales tax increases and transportation-related taxes."

Balancing that budget, which totals $40.6 million, relied on some one-time actions and reserve funding. Requests for reductions resulted in a drop $105,000, but overall the budget increased over last year, county officials said.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


The county's tentative budget was submitted to the Nevada Department of Taxation April 15 for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Once the state approves this tentative budget, the Board of Commissioners is required to conduct a public hearing in May.

The final budget must be submitted to the state on or before June 1 and the budget is officially adopted when the Nevada Tax Commission certifies the property tax rates on June 25.


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