County manager discusses property tax, the future
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 Feb. 12 at 10:30 a.m. Here are excerpts of the last forum:
Q. Assessed valuations for real property in the county have increased which will likely result in higher property tax bills. By virtue of this windfall to the county, would not any call for additional/increased taxes (such as the oft-floated suggestion to increase the gas tax by 5 more cents a gallon) be adding insult to injury for the county taxpayer?
A. The assessor is projecting an increase in assessed values. State law caps increases to property taxes at 3 percent for most primary home owners, regardless of the percentage increase in assessed values. So, most residents should continue to see a gradual increase in property taxes, consistent with state law. This will not result in a signficant increase in property tax collections for Douglas County or the other taxing entities in the community (school district, GIDs, towns, etc). As for funding of roads maintained by Douglas County, our road funding task force, consisting of a diverse group of nearly 20 residents from throughout the community, is currently working to finalize recommendations for how to address the need for additional revenue for roads. To date, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners has utilized priority based budgeting to shift existing property tax revenue to fund road maintenance without increasing other taxes, including the gas tax.
Q. Sierra Country Estates, Job’s Peak Ranch, and Sheridan Acres are developments that have caused avoidable expense, both to county taxpayers as well as their own residents, by virtue of water system inadequacies. What plans does the county have to implement needed changes to its code to better insure that developments are not approved unless the supportive infrastructure is properly installed and does not result in an unforeseen/undisclosed burden to the taxpayer or the purchasers in such developments?
A. We are currently in the process of amending the county’s engineering design standards, particularly as it relates to testing and inspection of infrastructure improvements. The intent of the engineering design manual changes is to ensure that future public and private infrastructure meets current state and federal standards. Ultimately, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is responsible for compliance and enforcement with federal and state regulations.
Q. The Town of Gardnerville had an item on their agenda approving a joint resolution with the Town of Minden confirming the principles and concepts of the Valley Vision Plan and for providing future funding for its implementation. Is the Town of Genoa approving a separate resolution or are they taking a different approach from Minden and Gardnerville? What is the next step for the Vision Plan?
A. Douglas County is working in partnership with the towns of Minden and Gardnerville on a joint resolution to support the principles of the Valley Vision and contribute funds that can be used as matching resources to leverage state and federal funds for implementation of the vision. We believe that it is important for our public agencies to send a message to the private sector that we are committed to working in partnership to revitalize our main street environments to become more vibrant, pedestrian friendly and attractive to residents, businesses and visitors. We are also working in partnership with the Town of Genoa to continue our commitment to revitalizing the historic town, but the primary focus of the Valley Vision concentrates on the Minden and Gardnerville main street business cooridor and the relationship to local and regional transportation needs.
Q. Residents have noticed a lot of illegal dumping on East Valley/Toler. There are even dumped cars. Do you think illegal dumping would decrease if the county subsidized the dump fees.
A. It is unfortunate that illegal dumping occurs in some areas and it tends to happen on federal land where there is little or no monitoring. We encourage anyone that is aware of illegal dumping to contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff takes illegal dumping seriously and will investigate the issue when reported. Also, the sheriff recommends that if you hire an independent individual or company to dispose of trash for you, you should verify that they are disposing of the trash at a transfer station or dump before you make payment. Asking all taxpayers to subsidize dumping fees in order to get illegal dumpers to comply with the law is a policy question that would need to be evaluated further.
Q. Some Ranchos businesses have asked what the procedure would be to have directional signs set at Highway 88 and Kimmerling to catch the attention of motorists coming in from California, similar to what Flight Restaurant has at Airport Road. Is this something the county has any control over, and if so, what is the procedure to make that happen?
A. Highway 88 is a state highway and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has responsibility for permitting signs within the state right-of-way. The signs placed on state highway 395 for Flight Restaurant were permitted by NDOT as a ‘Transit Oriented Sign.” Douglas County did provide assistance to Flight restaurant to help in facilitating the permit with NDOT. Any business interested in pursuing a permit for signage on a state highway should contact NDOT.
Q. We’ve heard that hotel occupancy rates were high at Stateline over New Year’s week. With the lack of snow in the forecast do you anticipate that room tax revenues will also take a hit?
A. Occupancy rates and room tax collections continue to trend in a positive direction. New Year’s week was strong and there were several major entertainment events that created a draw. So far, from July through November 2013, we have seen approximately 4 percent increase in Lake and Valley lodging compared to the same period in the prior year. It is too soon to tell how the light snow pack will impact the local economy, but our local public and private entities continue to invest in diversifying recreational offerings, including a strong focus on summer activities and shoulder season events.
Q. The bid for Muller Parkway to cross the Virginia Canal was approved on Monday. How long do you think it will be before the crossing is completed?
A. The bridge that crosses the Virginia Canal should be complete and open to traffic by the end of April 2014. The improvements connect Muller Parkway from the roundabout to Virginia Ranch Road.
Q. It looks like Golden Petroleum is going up pretty fast and Tractor Supply Co. is almost done. Anything new on the business front?
A. We continue to see positive signs in residential and commercial building permits. 2013 residential permits totaled 107, which was more than twice the 2012 figures. We are currently on pace to meet or exceed 2013 totals. We have received plans for design review of a 20,000 square foot industrial building in Meridian Business Park near the Minden-Tahoe Airport. The proposed use for the industrial building is a new light manufacturing business in the outdoor recreation equipment field.
Q. Is there anything we didn’t ask that you want to tell us about?
A. We made positive progress in 2013 and are looking forward to a strong 2014. Our focus will be on addressing critical infrastructure issues, such as water and sewer rates, road maintenance funding and stormwater needs. We will also continue our efforts to stabilize our long term finances and invest in main street revitalization initiatives.