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TCC offers mitigation plan

Jenifer Ragland

CARSON CITY – In making their case to the Nevada Legislature on Tuesday, members of the Tahoe Citizens Committee offered a mitigation plan that would allow Lake Tahoe residents to essentially buy their way out of their respective counties.

Because a major point against Tahoe County is the negative impact its creation would have on the Carson Valley, TCC Chairman Mike Jabara said the mitigation proposal removes any argument that the new county should not be created.

“We have been repeatedly told by many legislators, including our own Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, that if we held the state of Nevada and Douglas County harmless, he would support Tahoe County,” he said.

The proposed plan includes:

— An independent assessment by the Nevada Tax Commission of the fiscal impact a split would have on the remaining Douglas County. Dan Holler, county manager, has estimated the impact to be about $6.6 million.

— A public vote by the prospective Tahoe County residents to self-impose increases in sales tax, room tax and property tax – in that order, as needed – to fund the shortfall.

— The subsidy would continue for five years, with tapering amounts in the last two years, and “sunset” after the fifth year.

It is assumed that a five-year time period would allow Douglas County sufficient time to reduce service costs, increase revenues or otherwise figure out a way to balance its budgets.

“Tahoe County must not only be good for Tahoe and good for Nevada, but also good for our neighbors and friends in Douglas County,” Jabara said. “We expect that this is going to substantially move the line in terms of the odds in forming Tahoe County.”

But members of the opposition were not so quick to concede that the proposed mitigation plan would dissolve all arguments against the new county.

“I still have some skepticism that the new numbers will balance the new county’s budget,” said Joe Guild, a lobbyist hired by Douglas County. “The whole idea was for revenue neutrality and no new taxes, and this just isn’t revenue neutrality in my mind.”

As an example of how the plan would work, the TCC picked $5 million as an amount to mitigate. The proposal estimates that revenue could be generated by a 1.25 percent increase in sales tax, a 1 percent increase in room taxes paid by visitors and a 4-cent property tax hike for every $100 assessed value.

Legislators also raised questions as to imposing more taxes on North Shore residents that would not bring them any benefit – which is the central theme behind the new county movement. Also, they questioned how the TCC could guarantee that any amount of money would be sufficient to maintain Douglas County as it currently is.

“We are not asking you to make this happen. We are asking you to enable the voters to allow this to happen,” Jabara retorted.

Members of the TCC and supporters of Tahoe County said they are willing to do whatever it takes to get a more responsive government. They believe voters will pass an initiative for temporary tax increases – their desire for a new county is that compelling.

The TCC executive board unanimously approved the mitigation plan at its meeting on Monday. Jabara said there appears to be support for the idea among gaming industry interests, who would be most affected by the proposed increase in sales tax.

Not much time was spent discussing the mitigation proposal at Tuesday’s hearing, so it is unclear as to whether it had a large impact on legislators as was anticipated by TCC leaders.


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