Jim ClarkSpecial to the Bonanza

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January 23, 2013
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Jim Clark: A property tax increase for school debt?

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session." This quote is attributed to Mark Twain but in fact he probably stole it from 19th Century New York legislator Gideon Tucker. Whoever the author Nevada's legislature is on the brink of convening and will once again demonstrate the truth of that adage. The hot button items for the upcoming term involve education which involves money which, of course, is how our liberty and property come into jeopardy. The Washoe County School District has asked for approval to increase the county sales tax rate by 0.25 percent (from 7.725 percent to 7.975 percent) and to increase real property taxes by $0.05 per $100 of assessed valuation in order to raise funds for maintenance and repair of older school buildings.The school district says this would impact the "average" family about $8.00 per month which means it will impact the average Incline/Crystal Bay family about $40.00 per month because values are about 5 times higher than in the valley. A property tax increase for school debt would normally have to be approved by voters, so the school district is doing an end-around by going directly to the legislature.Moreover, there is a statutory cap of $3.64 on Nevada property tax rates and most areas of Reno and Sparks are already at that maximum. However, if the legislature can establish a cap it can also override it so that "taxpayer protection" law turns out to be meaningless. If this proposal is passed it is expected to raise about $20 million per annum which the school district would immediately leverage by issuing school bonds pledging the anticipated cash flow for debt service.Currently Washoe taxpayers' school debt tax is 38.85 cents per $100 assessed valuation which, according to the school district, produces just enough to pay accumulated bond obligations with nothing left over for repairs and maintenance. That rate would increase by 13 percent if the proposal is approved.The Washoe School District's operating budget is not available to maintain schools because it is devoted to teacher & administrator salaries. As a result the buildings deteriorate. How did this sad state of affairs occur? Simple. Every biennium the legislature appropriates money for schools' operating budgets.The teacher union sees these budgets and demands any available funds for their members' salaries. Under teacher union collective bargaining contracts if the school district resists this demand the matter is referred to binding arbitration which school districts always lose.Nevadans who live in common interest subdivisions know that the legislature has mandated homeowner association dues to include allocations to reserves so that when common area components wear or fail the cost of repair or replacement is in the bank. It is inexplicable that the same legislature has not imposed the same requirement on school districts and removed such funds from eligibility to pay salaries and operating costs. Under the present scheme school districts will always come back hat in hand to property owners asking for repair and maintenance funds. The proposed legislation will do nothing to permanently fix the problem.The Tower of London is nearly 1,000 years old but is in daily use, accommodating a military garrison, the British crown jewels and hordes of tourists. How? By having maintenance, repairs and replacements done when needed.Why can't our legislature treat school districts the same way they treat homeowners and mandate budgetary allocations to reserves for repair and maintenance?- Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at tahoesbjc@aol.com.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 23, 2013 05:50PM Published Jan 23, 2013 05:49PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.