Judicial center financing advances

Looking north from Buckeye Road is 57 acres of property purchased by the county last year for the future home of the Douglas County Judicial Center.

Looking north from Buckeye Road is 57 acres of property purchased by the county last year for the future home of the Douglas County Judicial Center.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Construction on a new judicial center could begin next spring if the financial stars align.

Douglas County commissioners voted 5-0 last week to have the Clerk-Treasurer notify the Debt Management Commission the county plans to issue general obligation bonds up to $43 million to construct the center.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we need this building,” said Commissioner Wes Rice who asked if this proposal was the least expensive way to get the work done.

“A year ago, you directed me to come up with the best solution,” Chief Financial Officer Terri Willoughby said. “This is the best solution for the county.”

Commissioner Sharla Hales said the two issues for her were safety and judicial access.

“The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have enough room,” she said. “Right now the courts are crowded, and the facilities are insufficient. I’m convinced this is a necessary expense.”

Chairman Mark Gardner and Commissioner Danny Tarkanian agreed the building is needed.

Gardner pointed out that as expensive as the building is, it’s not going to get any cheaper if the county waits.

Tarkanian was concerned that increased building costs will affect the effort, which is why the county is also looking at medium term bonding to provide a $14 million buffer.

Bond consultant Marty Johnson said the bonding to build the center can’t result in a property tax rate increase, as the county is already at the state-mandated $3.64 per $100 assessed valuation. Nevada assesses property tax based on value, which means an individual owner’s actual property tax bill can increase if their property increases in value.

Johnson and Willoughby said financing the project will require a combination of sources, including 15 percent of consolidated taxes, which includes sales, tobacco, liquor taxes, and medium term bonds.

Medium term bonds must be paid off in 10 years and are being used to pay off the Douglas County Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville. The county has a 5-cent capital improvement tax which was used for the first 10 years on the Community Center that have since been paid off.

Debt Management Commission approval is good for 36 months, Johnson said.

While no popular vote on the financing is anticipated, residents who oppose the plan could require it through a petition process.

Under a timeline presented on Thursday, a public notice for a Sept. 7 hearing would be published in The Record-Courier on Aug. 23.

Approval would start a 90-day period during which opponents would have to gather signatures of 5 percent of voters who were registered for the last general election, according to Deputy District Attorney Zach Wadlé. According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, there were 40,735 voters in the county in November 2022, so that would require 2,036 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

The new center could cost $43.3-$57.1 million depending on what happens with construction costs, county staff estimated.

Currently, the county’s courts and clerks are housed in the second story of the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center, built in 1982 when the county was home to around 20,000 people. Forty years later, there are around 50,000 residents in Douglas County. The center also houses the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Probation, Alternative Sentencing and the jail.


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