Since the beginning of the recession, Nevada's cities and counties have lost half the revenue they used to receive from property taxes. It's due to declining property values and legislative requirements limiting how much property taxes can go up each year.
Elected officials say they don't have the money to provide necessary services anymore and there's nothing they can do to fix the problem. Their comments came at a Local Government Summit organized by the Nevada League of Cities and the Nevada Association of Counties.
Officials Face a "Fiscal Cliff"
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins summed up the feelings of many officials. "You can't go on trying to run your city on half the property tax. Raise the damn property tax," Commissioner Collins said.
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin was also emphatic that tax increases are necessary. He explained, "We can't keep up the pipes or streets or the lights anymore without having the ability to tax. Every city is in the same situation. We are falling apart."
Financial Home Rule
As it now stands, local governments in Nevada lack the ability to levy higher taxes without approval from the Legislature. In addition, it takes a supermajority of twothirds approval in both the House and Senate to pass a tax increase.
The Association of Counties is seeking approval of a bill to give local governments home rule. Officials describe it as the ability to govern their communities on a day-today basis.
Timing is Bad for Tax Increases
Not everyone at the summit believes property tax increases are the answer. Assemblyman Tom Grady said, "Right now I cannot support tax increases unless it can be clearly shown that there is no other way for local government to provide basic services." He added that both the Legislature and local governments need to first look at cutting spending before considering tax increases.
Assemblyman Pete Livermore agreed, saying that higher property taxes would only drive away businesses that might relocate in Nevada.