Group opposes three petitions, saying they would hurt taxpayers | NevadaAppeal.com

Group opposes three petitions, saying they would hurt taxpayers

Expressing concern about the “California penchant for government by initiative moving east to Nevada,” the Nevada Taxpayers Association has come out against three proposed amendments to Nevada’s constitution, including a property tax petition modeled after California’s Proposition 13.

Association Board Chairman Fred Gibson said the proposal, as well as one to limit governmental use of condemnation to get property and a proposal to mandate daily physical education in public schools, would have unintended consequences and cost taxpayers a lot of money.

In addition, he and Association Executive Director Carole Vilardo said the petitions seem to be written like statutes, when constitutional language should be a policy statement. The difference, Vilardo said, is that statutory language is much more specific, which can cause serious problems when an “unintended consequence” arises, because it takes up to five years to change Nevada’s Constitution.

The property tax amendment would cap annual tax increases at 1 percent. The association pointed out it would cause serious problems with voter-approved overrides, such as added funding for Las Vegas police and pay-as-you-go financing used to fund school expansion in Elko. Gibson said the language is unclear in how base value will be interpreted under the amendment.

The plan also requires two thirds of voters to increase the property tax rate, which opponents say would allow a minority vote to, for example, block construction of schools needed to handle growth.

Gibson said the eminent domain petition tilts the condemnation process so much in favor of property owners it could block construction of major projects such as highways and cost taxpayers millions by allowing property owners to dramatically overcharge for land needed to complete public projects. He said it would do the same to utilities seeking to acquire land needed to expand service to new homes and businesses.

The physical education requirement sounds innocuous, but Gibson and Vilardo pointed out the legislative fiscal division estimates it would add at least $120 million a year to school budgets – $257 million a year if the school day had to be lengthened.

Those totals, according to the fiscal analysis, are state costs and don’t include costs to local school districts, such as building additional facilities and buying equipment for classes, developing standards, classroom programs, training teachers and handling special-education students.

— Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.