Give property-tax reform some stability
November 30, 2005
At least one of the arguments from folks who would like to see Nevada adopt property-tax reform closer to California’s Proposition 13 makes a lot of sense.
Homeowners in California know from year to year how much their property-tax liability is going to be. It gives a great deal of stability not only to personal finances, but to government budget forecasts and, in some respects, the real estate market.
To our way of thinking, though, that is a reason for Nevada’s Legislature to stick with the 3 percent and 8 percent caps it set this year – and not to make radical changes in the system.
The more legislators tinker with it, the less confidence the public has that property-tax relief is real and lasting. If taxpayers get the idea the Legislature is going to open the issue every two years and make sweeping changes, then the value of stability is merely an illusion.
Of course, that’s also the case for setting a property-tax cap in stone in the state constitution. It would be much more difficult – OK, likely impossible – to pry it loose again.
Unfortunately, we have yet to see the perfect solution to the property-tax equation. Proposition 13 isn’t it, not in every respect. Neither is Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights, even with its safety valve.
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Nevada’s 2005 reform law isn’t there yet, either, as pointed out by county assessors. Over the years it can create a large tax disparity between bills for houses sitting side by side, if one can rise by 8 percent because it’s a rental and the other rises by 3 percent because it’s occupied by the owner.
The Legislature will make some adjustments to the law, and it may do so session after session. But it should resist making wholesale changes.
Maybe someday Nevada will have a perfect property-tax system. We won’t be holding our breath.