Small property tax dip in Carson City’s budget plan
A $127.2 million all-funds budget, with $65.7 million of it keyed to local taxes, was set Monday to cover next fiscal year’s Carson City government operations.
The Board of Supervisors, voting 4-1 with Supervisor Jim Shirk dissenting, adopted a spending guide starting July 1 that includes a slight dip in the property tax levy. It will drop from this year’s $3.56 per $100 of assessed value to $3.54 in fiscal 2014-15.
Shirk made one more attempt to alter the document, saying the additional 2 cents would amount to about $17 from homeowners and revenues from it could go for capital projects. “It’s a good motion,” he said.
Supervisor John McKenna, who seconded the motion for discussion purposes and then opposed it, said despite Shirk’s argument it is best to honor a promise to taxpayers that the property tax burden would be lowered.
“If I understand correctly, from what I’ve been told, we’re the only county in Nevada to cut the property tax (levy),” McKenna said. Mayor Robert Crowell, who earlier had favored the $3.56 level, said he has been persuaded lowering the burden makes sense and honors a pledge.
Throughout debate earlier this year on whether to raise the city sales tax by one-eighth of a penny, or $12.50 per $10,000 in taxable goods purchased, Shirk argued for an alternative method to finance capital projects by setting aside 2 cents from property tax and using other money from outside the general fund. The sales tax boost was approved 4-1, again with Shirk dissenting.
The general fund comes from city sales, property and other general local taxes. It accounts for nearly $66 million of the budget. The all-funds budget, nearly twice the general fund, comes from enterprise funds based on user fees and the like, as well as from federal sources such as grants or shared taxes. One element, for instance, is a portion of the gasoline tax imposed at the national level for highways and related needs.
In the city’s general fund, about $22 million in estimated fiscal 2014-15 revenues will come from city sales tax, and a like amount will come from the property tax, according to Finance Director Nick Providenti. That means more than two-thirds of the budget comes from those sources. Providenti said his sales tax projection includes the estimated $787,000 from the city sales tax hike approved earlier, but from which receipts won’t start until after Oct. 1.
Providenti agreed with McKenna that tax receipts may exceed his projections going forward, if an economic recovery continues. The new city manager who will take over soon isn’t locked into a budget. Providenti called it a blueprint that the board, with advice from the city manager, can augment. New City Manager Nick Marano, a retired Marine colonel and management consultant, will start June 2.
Marano, in his job interview, outlined an ambitious plan to learn the community, work toward development and redevelopment, tackle energy efficiency and get Carson City in position to take advantage of economic recovery.
Adoption of next year’s budget in a special Monday morning meeting came after a public hearing at which just a couple of people appeared.
John Wagner of Carson City, a fiscal conservative, touted zero-based budgeting. He said government tends to allow departments to seek up to 10 percent in hopes of getting 5 percent increases annually. If they don’t, he said, government employees talk of cuts “which really aren’t cuts at all.” He described zero-based budgeting as starting from scratch in building spending guides each year.
Lori Bagwell also testified. She is chairwoman of the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee and a candidate seeking McKenna’s supervisor’s seat.
Bagwell urged that budgets, even when they are basically just maintenance-of-service documents like this one, should be tied to the city’s strategic plan. The mayor said he agreed, and that is the goal of performance based metrics being developed by the city’s audit committee.
The board also approved a $1.7 million redevelopment budget.