State settles property tax grab with Washoe County; Reno asks for its share back
September 11, 2012
The state Board of Examiners on Tuesday settled with Washoe County over the millions of dollars in property tax money the state took to balance its budget.Washoe officials originally demanded a $21.5 million repayment for revenue swept by the governor and legislature in the 2009 and 2011 sessions. The demand, along with a much larger demand from Clark County, were made in the wake of a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that said the state couldn’t take the Clean Water Coalition money totaling $62.5 million. The counties argued the money taken from their coffers fell into the same category.Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said a series of negotiations with Washoe County produced a deal to give the county $1.25 million in cash and move another $6 million in Department of Transportation highway and road projects up in priority for Washoe. The total value of the deal is $7.25 million with the bulk coming from Highway Fund money.Mohlenkamp said this doesn’t approve construction of any projects that haven’t already been adopted by NDOT in its annual plan. But the deal moves them up in priority, bumping some projects in other parts of the state down the ladder.The Washoe County Commission has already accepted the deal.Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger followed the action by advising the board that Reno also would like its share of the property taxes taken by the state returned — a total of $2,035,879. He submitted such a claim to the state last week.Ironically, it was Clinger as state budget director who four years ago recommended taking the property tax money from the counties and cities to help cover the state’s budget shortfalls.Tuesday’s action does have one other impact on the state. Along with the vote to correct a $274,443 error in distributing property tax revenue to the Reno Redevelopment Agency, the settlement nearly drains the state’s Statutory Contingency Fund. Mohlenkamp told the board, which is chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval, that he will have to ask the Interim Finance Committee to put at least a couple of hundred thousand in the contingency fund.According to the settlement figures, the contingency fund, which covers unexpected or unpredictable costs such as court decisions and wildfire costs, will go from $1,721,842 to $197,399.The board decision doesn’t affect Clark County’s demand it be repaid millions in property taxes taken by lawmakers because instead of negotiating with the state to reach a settlement, Clark filed suit.