CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada Supreme Court last Thursday ruled that Washoe County had the authority to cut money from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District budget.
The county cut money to pay for court-ordered tax refunds to Incline Village and Crystal Bay property owners, stemming from the historic July 7, 2011, order from the high court ordering the cunty treasurer to refund Incline property owners for unconstitutional taxes they paid for the 2006-07 fiscal year.
“To cover the cost of the refunds plus interest, respondents withheld amounts from property tax distributions made to the various county taxing units that had previously benefited from the excessive property taxes,” the court order read.
District Judge Pat Flanagan originally ruled against the fire district, saying he has no authority to interject himself “into the internal political decisions of another branch of government.”
Flanagan ruled he couldn’t do that unless the manner in which the county commission made that decision was arbitrary or capricious, “which was not the case here.”
The fire district argued that decision was arbitrary because statute requires the county to collect and distribute a portion of property taxes to the fire district.
The Supreme Court panel of Justices Michael Cherry, Jim Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre agreed with Flanagan, pointing out that Nevada’s constitution bars one branch of government from exercising any functions belonging to the other branches. To that end, they said it is the county commission’s power to budget, spend and levy and collect property taxes.
They also wrote that it is the county commission’s decision how to satisfy the refund to North Tahoe property owners
“In sum, if the court system undertook resolution of this case, it would supplant the county commissioners’ legislative and executive powers,” the opinion concludes.