Lawmakers Petition to Freeze Property Taxes

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Two conservative lawmakers who opposed tax increases approved by the 2003 Legislature on Wednesday launched an initiative petition to curb Nevadans' property tax rates.

Assembly members Sharron Angle, R-Reno, and Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley, filed the petition with the secretary of state, and Angle said there's widespread support for the plan modeled after California's landmark Proposition 13, approved in 1978. A similar Nevada proposal was rejected in 1980.

Angle and Gustavson face an uphill battle. The proposed constitutional amendment will require at least 51,244 signatures of registered voters by June 15. And she must get 10 percent of the voters to sign in at least 13 of the 17 counties.

The proposal would freeze the tax rate for residential and commercial property at 1 percent of assessed value based on the 2001-02 fiscal year. Taxes could increase each year by 2 percent or the rate of the consumer price index, whichever is lower.

Already approved voter overrides for school construction and other projects would be exempted, and new voter overrides would require a two-thirds vote. Property would be reassessed once it was sold.

Marvin Leavitt, a tax and fiscal expert who works as a consultant to Nevada's five largest cities, opposed the proposal at a hearing in 2003 and said Tuesday he remains opposed.

The proposal would shift Nevada from collecting property taxes based on actual value to one based on an arbitrary formula, he said. Owners of properties appreciating faster than others would pay less taxes, and owners of properties appreciating less, normally those in low-income areas, would pay more, he added.

If the measure qualifies for the ballot, it will have to pass twice, in 2004 and 2006, to take effect.

The Nevada Taxpayers Association says Nevada's property tax formula brought in $1.8 billion in taxes in the 2002-03 fiscal year. The total taxable value of property in Nevada was $151 billion in 2001-02 as set by the Nevada Department of Taxation.