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Nevada Mayors Push for Assessment Cap Changes

by Joe Monzon, Denver, December 2013

 

Mayors from three of Nevada's largest cities are mounting a campaign to change or eliminate the current assessment caps that limit property tax revenues. They told a public affairs forum hosted by the Las Vegas Review Journal the caps are hindering their cities' recovery from the recession.

 

Getting Back to Where They Were

 

Mayors Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas, John Lee of North Las Vegas, and Andy Hafen of Henderson say they would support new legislation to raise the assessment caps now in place. "It is not looking for additional resources, it's trying to get back to where we were," Hafen said.

 

During the recession, property tax revenue fell dramatically throughout Nevada. For the City of Las Vegas alone, it tumbled 35% from a peak of about $121 million in 2009 to projected level of less than $79 million in 2014.

 

Since annual assessment increases are capped at 3% for residential and 8% for commercial properties, it could be years before property tax revenues reach the previous levels.

 

Let Businesses Foot the Bill

 

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick says she sympathizes with the mayors but does not support changing the caps. She believes a better option would be to review how state and local Boards of Equalization handle appeals for commercial properties.

 

Under current law, commercial owners can have their assessment reduced because of a decline in their business activity. However, once business picks up again, the corresponding rate of increase cannot exceed the 8% cap.

 

Kirkpatrick also said local governments could get more property tax revenue just by scrutinizing their tax rolls. Since the 3% cap only applies to owner-occupied residential property, it could pay to make sure that homes taken by banks or bought by investors to be used as rentals are assigned an 8% cap, rather than 3%.