Tax increases considered to balance Douglas budget
Nevada Appeal News Service
MINDEN – After balancing Douglas County’s 2007-08 budget with reserve funding, commissioners voted to move forward with ordinances to add a utility operating fee, business license tax and 911 communications fee in Douglas County.
Expenditures exceeded revenues in four budget categories, the largest a $906,000 drop in the county’s general fund, according to county reports.
Commissioner Kelly Kite said the problems can’t be fixed with departmental adjustments or by laying a few people off.
“You can’t cut $1 million with pencils and erasers. If you cut the budget, you cut programs,” he said. “I’m probably the biggest advocate of keeping taxes as low as possible and that’s probably what got us here today. I’m going along with the (county staff) recommendations because I don’t have a better answer.
“We come up with the revenues, or the lights go out in the park and the potholes won’t get patched. We need to grow up and get the revenue coming in or next year, we’ll have a blood bath and there’s not a thing we’ll be able to do about it,” Kite said.
Commissioner Jim Baushke said the budget was barely balanced last year and the problem will be worse next year if revenues like the room and sales taxes keep declining.
“I’m in favor of using reserves as a bridge, but only if we can get the revenues instituted. Otherwise, we’ll be out of reserves soon,” he said. “We’re in trouble because we haven’t initiated gradual tax increases to cover things like inflation.”
Growth in sales and property tax revenues over the last three years have saved the county from having to make significant budget cuts, but this year sales tax revenues have dropped 5.9 percent.
State consolidated taxes are expected to drop 3.9 percent. Room taxes are projected to generate $6.5 million, down from a $7 million peak in 2000 and gas taxes have been declining for 10 years. Property taxes increased 11.5 percent, according to a report by County Manager Dan Holler.
“Douglas County has historically been a “low-tax” county and relied on nontraditional revenues, like gaming and room taxes that are no longer able to support the service demands,” Holler said.
Commissioner David Brady denounced the use of reserves to balance the budget, but cast the one dissenting vote on the utility operator fees and business license tax.
“I can’t support the use of revenue enhancements at this time. We may need to cross that bridge eventually but right now, there are other approaches,” he said. “Operational audits could reveal opportunities for savings.”
Douglas County residents filled the chamber of the old courtroom for Monday’s budget meeting and most favored the new taxes to prevent the termination of services.
“It’s a miracle library staff has done so much with their limited resources,” said Bob Chambers, a library board trustee. “Now we’re facing a cut in services when the number of patrons is increasing. I urge you to restore the library budget.”
Deborah Marks, dog trainer and 4-H member, said she needs the fairgrounds pavilion for her classes.
“Without these kinds of programs, the kids will be hanging around town,” she said. “Four-H keeps them on the straight and narrow.”
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