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How much for senior center?

by Susie Vasquez

Based on average utility expenditures in Douglas County, households will spend about $27.60 a year in utility operation taxes should county commissioners approve plans for a new senior center, according to figures from a study by the Senior Services Advisory Council.

Used to build, operate and maintain the proposed center, the funding mechanism imposes 1 percent utility tax for the first two years of the project, that figure increasing by another .5 percent in July of 2008.

Yearly costs per household at that point would total about $48.30, the study states.

If recommendations from the advisory council are approved, the fees would be generated by Sierra Pacific Power, Southwest Gas and telephone services, including cell phones. Revenues would total about $470,000 from Sierra Pacific, $285,000 from Southwest Gas and $95,000 from various telephone services for a yearly total of $850,000.

Of that funding, about 47 percent from Sierra Pacific and 22 percent from Southwest Gas would be generated from non-residential customers, for a total of $283,000. Non-residential telephone customers would generate another $17,000.

The money would primarily be used to pay back the proposed $7 million in bonded indebtedness for the facility, to be paid over 15 years.

Principal-only payments would be made the first two years and additional cash flow would be used to meet bond issuance costs and other one-time expenditures.

It will take seven to eight months for county officials to complete the process for a bond issue and in that time, interest rates are expected to rise to a level of 4.5 to 4.75 percent, according to the Senior Services Advisory report.

Costs for a 4.5 percent loan would total just over $2.9 million, for a total of $9.9 million spent over the life of a 15-year loan.

Stretching the same loan over 10 years would mean higher payments, but save taxpayers about $1 million.

The proposal is more conservative than an advisory question vetoed by Douglas County residents in November of 2004. The measure called for a 3 percent utility operator fee to fund a number of projects, including the senior citizen’s center, community recreation center and cultural performing arts center in Carson Valley, and a senior center and county library at Lake Tahoe.

State law allows counties to levy up to a 5 percent fee in utility operator fees, which generated about $58 million statewide last year, according to information supplied by the Nevada Association of Counties.

Douglas County has already dedicated a portion of those utility operator fees, including a 5 percent fee on cable revenues, the money going to the county’s general fund. Another 25-year agreement provides a 2 percent utility operator fee from Southwest Gas, the money going to Douglas County’s general and school funds, according to Lisa Granahan, assistant to the county manager.

Douglas County’s fee collections are relatively modest at $382,423, when compared to Carson City’s $3.4 million in the 2004-05 fiscal year.

Washoe County and Carson City utility fees should generate about the same amount of utility fee revenues in the upcoming fiscal year, about $4.1 million. Clark County leads the pack, with a projected $51 million.

Esmeralda, Eureka, Nye, Lincoln, Pershing and White Pine counties don’t collect any utility fees, according to the report.

Designed to accommodate Douglas County’s burgeoning senior population, the new 24,800-square-foot center would be located on 25 acres known as the Bently Depot Yard, northeast of Highway 395 in Minden.

The proposed facility would include a large commercial kitchen to accommodate Meals on Wheels and an expanded lunch program in addition to a large dining room and senior daycare facility, deemed crucial by the Senior Advisory Committee.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.