Minden’s Settelmeyer seeks committee to review GIDs
April 4, 2017
Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, told the Government Affairs Committee this week his Senate Bill 462 would create a committee to review General Improvement Districts to determine whether they're doing a good job, need changes or even dissolution.
While he said the bill would allow any county to begin that process, it was specifically written with Douglas County in mind since Douglas has more GIDs — 24 — than any other county.
SB462 was supported by members of the county commission including Chairman Barry Penzel and Vice Chairman Steve Thayler who said some GIDs are doing a good job but others may not be and the county commission should be examining them.
"This is a look at giving us, the commissioners, some kind of oversight," Penzel said. "It also gives GIDs the chance to step up and say this is how well we're doing."
“This is a look at giving us, the commissioners, some kind of oversight. It also gives GIDs the chance to step up and say this is how well we’re doing.”Chairman Barry Penzel
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At present, however, he said county officials don't even get to see their budgets.
But Ralph Miller, chairman of the Cave Rock Estates GID in the Tahoe Basin, said the bill provides "both the means and incentive to dissolve all GIDs."
He said GIDs in the basin "have substantial financial reserves" the county could take if they dissolve the districts adding his GID has more than $650,000 in reserve for maintenance and other projects.
"They have the unilateral mechanism on the part of the county commissioners to dissolve the GIDs and move the revenue into the General Fund."
Jerry Richert of the Zephyr Cove GID said they "basically provide the county services they feel they cannot provide." He disagreed with Penzel saying they provide the county with annual financial reports and other information and their budgets are reviewed by the state so there's oversight.
"I don't see the need to create this committee," he said.
All the opponents say they have no issue with the county wanting information about what and how they're doing but don't believe the county should be able to unilaterally dissolve a GID.
Settelmeyer said he was willing to discuss a "trigger" that, for example, would require the board of a GID to agree to being dissolved and absorbed into the county government if it had, say, more than $1 million in annual revenues.
Settelmeyer said he believes the GIDs should be willing to stand for examination to determine "if they still exist or should exist." He said if they aren't providing good service, then they shouldn't exist and the county should take over.
The committee took no action on the measure.
Those GIDs were more supportive, however, on Settelmeyer's SB471, a bill reorganizing the original special district at Tahoe, Sewer District 1. That organization was created in 1928 to handle the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage in the south end of the Tahoe Basin. Since no sewage can be disposed of within the basin for environmental reasons, it's all treated then pumped out over Kingsbury Grade and disposed of in the Carson Valley.
While all agreed the district has performed well, Settelmeyer said there have been numerous problems with legal issues over management of Sewer District 1 including representation on its board of directors. Those members are supposed to be district residents but the district essentially serves the casino core at Stateline.
"The problem is you can't find people who live in the district to appoint to the district board," he said.
There are homes in the corridor but Settelmeyer said most are vacation homes, not primary residences.
The sewer district serves the Kingsbury, Round Hill and Tahoe-Douglas GIDs so Settelmeyer said the plan is to create a Special District in law similar to that serving Sun Valley or TMWA in Reno/Sparks. He said it would have the same service area and the same responsibilities as Sewer District 1 but a more representative board with one member from each of those GIDs to ensure that area residents are well represented. The other members would be one Douglas County commissioner and one representing major businesses there — primarily the businesses in the casino core.
Spokesman Jim Cavilia told the Government Affairs Committee the new district would continue to operate using revenues solely derived from fees but the new structure would cure legal and organizational problems. According to committee staff, it would also put the district outside the reach of the county commission, which would have to get legislative approval to modify or dissolve the operation.
The plan was drafted after the county commissioners last year looked into dissolving the historic district in part over concerns local residents weren't represented on the board of directors.
Miller and other GID officials testified in support of SB471. He said the new plan reflects the change in demographics away from just gaming properties. But he emphasized Sewer District 1 has for decades done an excellent job handling the sewage disposal.