Clark County Could Lose Money to State

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada's two biggest counties are fighting a proposal to redirect property taxes from the county to the state. The measure is one of several on an "ugly list" that lawmakers are considering to help fill the state's budget hole.

AB543 would redirect 4 cents for every $100 of property value from Washoe and Clark counties to the state. The plan originally proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons could generate $68 million for the state.

Representatives of the counties, encompassing Las Vegas and Reno, said they are already facing substantial deficits and service cuts.

"If they take this out of our property tax, we'd have to cut services to make it up," George Stevens, chief financial officer of Clark County, said after the meeting. "It's only one small piece of what they're trying to do."

Other proposals include sweeping an indigent accident account which is used to pay counties' hospital costs for patients who lack funds, diverting part of sales and use tax and reducing hospital reimbursement rates, leaving counties to pick up the tab.

Jeff Fontaine, representing the Nevada Association of Counties said that together the proposals could cost counties $151 million over the next two years.

Stevens said that if the tax burden was spread to other counties, cities and unincorporated areas, it would cut his county's contribution in half. He said the loss of revenue would impact countywide services like courts, child welfare, social service and juvenile justice programs.

Stevens did not propose an amendment to spread the tax burden beyond the two big counties, but rather proposed that the state could take money from a Clark County capital projects tax for the next two years.

The state already takes part of that capital projects account, and Stevens' proposal would speed up that collection. Stevens said the county won't need that money over the next two years because capital improvement projects could be funded using other revenue sources.

Marvin Leavitt, a tax expert and lobbyist for the city of Henderson, said he fears there's not a lot of logic to the Legislature's proposals to grab county funds.

"They're looking under every rock where they can to try to find money," Leavitt said. "It does not seem to make sense, when they're essentially in a similar fiscal situation, to start transferring money around, when the only thing we accomplish is simply reducing services at the local level."

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