Posts Tagged ‘Clark’

Sandoval Asks For Meetings With Washoe And Clark Counties Over $124 Million In Refund Requests

By Sean Whaley | 2:40 pm September 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today state officials will meet with Clark and Washoe county representatives who are seeking nearly $124 million in refunds from the state – before deciding if litigation is necessary.

Sandoval, attending a meeting of the Board of Examiners, said afterward that Nevadans expect their elected officials to talk over disputes to see if they can be resolved before resorting to the courts.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“I have always been working with local government and I think this is another opportunity to do that,” he said. “I think the people of Nevada, particularly in Washoe County and Clark County, expect their elected officials to work together toward a common good.”

The board, which also includes Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, agreed that holding meetings on the requests is the best next step to take in the dispute. The board briefly discussed the two demand letters at the meeting.

The meetings will allow for an investigation into the specifics of their claims, Sandoval said. The attorney general’s office, Sandoval’s office and the Department of Administration will have staff attend the meetings.

“I think it is prudent at this point before this matter were to proceed to any type of litigation to begin a dialogue between the state and the respective counties,” Sandoval said. “This is obviously a very complex legal matter that includes an interpretation of a very recent Nevada Supreme Court case.”

Depending on the outcome of the meetings, the Board of Examiners could then make an appropriate decision on the refund requests, he said.

Masto agreed, saying it makes sense to open a dialogue with the counties before moving to any legal action. Ultimately the board will have to decide whether to accept or reject the demands, she said.

The refunds were requested based on the court ruling in May on the Clean Water Coalition case that found the Nevada Legislature improperly took $62 million in 2010 from the local government fund to balance the state budget.

The ruling threw into question several other revenue sources Sandoval had proposed using for his 2011-13 budget, and led to a compromise with Democrats in the Legislature that included the extension of several tax increases that had been set to expire June 30.

But as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, both Clark and Washoe counties have submitted claims to the Board of Examiners requesting refunds of property taxes taken in the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions to help balance the state budget.

Washoe County is seeking $21.5 million. Clark County is seeking $102.5 million.

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says there needs to be a dialogue with the counties on the refund requests:

091311Sandoval1 :20 Supreme Court case.”

Sandoval says Nevadans expect elected officials to work together:

091311Sandoval2 :12 a common good.”

 

Lawmakers Show Another Party-Line Split On Sandoval’s Urban County Property Tax Shift For Higher Education

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm May 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Members of the Legislature’s two money committees reviewed Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget for higher education today in preparation for making final decisions on how to fund the state’s public university system for the next two years.

Members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees reviewed a 20-page document setting out alternatives to Sandoval’s budget, which would reduce state support to the Nevada System of Higher Education by $162 million.

The document was initially made public, then withdrawn when legislative staff said the information was not intended to be released. The information was later provided by a lobbyist electronically and posted by political commentator Jon Ralston.

It shows various options that will likely generate partisan votes by the money committees when they do take final action on the higher education budget. But one element of a funding plan, implementing higher student fees, may see broader support.

Students could see a 13 percent  per credit hour “surcharge” as part of the funding plan, raising the nearly $157 charged for university undergraduate courses now to $200 by 2013, a 27 percent increase. Fees for other levels of courses would rise by the same percentages.

But it was a proposal by Sandoval to divert nine cents of property tax from Clark and Washoe counties to help support the state’s two universities that produced the most spirited debate of the session. The transfer would put $120 million in local revenue into the two institutions. The rationale from Sandoval is that Clark and Washoe counties derive an economic benefit in having the institutions house in their communities.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said it should be all or none. Either all 17 counties should be asked to contribute local property tax to higher education or none should, he said.

Asking for a motion, Democrats on the two committees voted to oppose Sandoval’s recommendation of shifting money only from Clark and Washoe. Republicans supported the governor.

The vote created another hole in the Sandoval budget following votes earlier this week to add nearly $700 million in funding to public education by the same two panels. Those votes were party line as well with Republicans opposed.

Horsford said it is an issue of fairness.

“I for the life of me don’t understand how only two counties are responsible for having to fill the budget hole of the higher education system which is a benefit of all Nevadans and all counties,” he said.

“It’s either all in or none,” Horsford said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he does see the logic of the Sandoval plan because of the economic benefit to Clark and Washoe counties from the presence of the two universities, but added he would be willing to consider applying the tax shift to all counties.

That proposal did not get much support from rural lawmakers, however.

“I guess the problem I have; in several of the rural counties that I represent are just really close to going bankrupt,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora. “And if that happens the state is going to have to take them over of course. White Pine County and some of those other counties are really hurting.”

Horsford replied that some other rural counties have huge reserves.

“Clark and Washoe counties are not doing all that great either,” he said.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said some rural counties are at the maximum property tax levy allowed by law and could not afford the shift.

“Where do the counties get the money to not only pay this but the other things that we’re looking at pushing down to them when they can’t raise their tax if they wanted to because of the cap,” he asked.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said Washoe County is at the tax cap as well.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said the property tax shift is being proposed because Nevada is “cheap.”

“We’ve been stuck in a paradigm for years in this state and the paradigm is we’re cheap,” he said. “That’ right. We don’t want to pay. And the reality is, that we think that because we’re cheap, people will come. I’ve got to tell you, people don’t come to places that are cheap, they come to places of value.”

Democrats earlier this week released details of a tax plan they will pursue to restore $920 million in cuts to education and health and human services programs, including $120 million to higher education.

But Sandoval and GOP lawmakers have already rejected the plan. Democrats cannot raise taxes without Republican support.

Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says the property tax shift to higher education should come from all counties or none:

050711Horsford :13 counties, or none.”

Sen. Dean Rhoads says some rural counties are on the verge of bankruptcy:

050711Rhoads :21 are really hurting.”

Assemblyman Tom Grady says some counties cannot raise their property taxes to compensate for the shift:

050711Grady :15 of the cap.”

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin says the property tax plan is being proposed because Nevada is cheap:

050711Conklin :23 places of value.”

 

 

Nevada School District Websites Earn Overall Grade Of “D” For Transparency, Two Largest Districts Fare Better

By Sean Whaley | 8:20 am June 22nd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s 17 school districts earned an overall “D” grade for information they provide to the public on their websites, according to an analysis by Sunshine Review, a pro-transparency group based in Washington, DC.

The state’s two largest districts fared better, with the Washoe County School District earning the best grade with a “B” and the Clark County School District earning a “C” grade, based on the availability of 10 types of information on each district’s website.

Kristin McMurray, senior editor at Sunshine Review, said the school districts reviewed in about 10 states so far have generally fared equally poorly despite the fact that most of the information can be made available without any great difficulty.

“Most of the information we’re asking for is already in a digital format; all we’re asking is that they post it online,” she said.

One exception is the contracts negotiated with teachers and other employee groups because sometimes the documents have clauses that prohibit such posting, McMurray said.

In the Clark County School District, six of the 10 categories of information are considered fully available, from the budget and meeting information to public records and academic information. Three types of information, including taxes, contracts and audits, were identified as being partially provided. Only one, information on background checks of employees, was entirely absent.

The Washoe County School District had seven of 10 areas fully available, and the other three: taxes, contracts and background checks, partially available.

Three rural districts, Esmeralda, Eureka and Humboldt, failed to provide information in six categories, the most of any of the Nevada school districts identified in the review.

Michael Rodriguez, public information officer and media manager for the Clark County School District, welcomed the review and said it will provide assistance in improving the district’s website to make it more useful to the public.

“We’re always looking at ways to make that better,” he said. “I don’t think we ever look at the website and assume it is a finished product. There are always new things we can put out there.”

One example is keeping the public up-to-date on the search for a new superintendent, Rodriguez said.

A challenge is to not overwhelm the visitor to the website with too much information, he said.

The district is also using different tools to communicate with parents, students, taxpayers and the community, including the creation of a Facebook page, Rodriguez said.

But the district will continue to work with Sunshine Review in an effort to improve its grade, he said.

Sunshine Review is a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. Sunshine Review collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout the country in the cause of an informed citizenry and a transparent government. Since its inception in 2008, Sunshine Review has analyzed the websites of all 50 states, more than 3,140 counties, 805 cities, and 1,560 school districts.

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Audio clips:

Sunshine Review’s McMurray says websites should provide more information:

062110McMurray1 :07 the whole story.”

Sunshine’s McMurray says she hopes districts will use websites to convey important information:

062110McMurray2 :17 to their kids.”

Clark County School District’s Rodriguez says Sunshine analysis was helpful

062110Rodriguez :26 and the community.”

Rory and Oscar Are BFFs

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:16 am April 28th, 2010

Teaming up to curb firefighter overtime (and other) costs to both city and county are a rather unlikely pair:  Clark County Commission chair Rory Reid and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Other suggested cuts filed under the tab “shared services” are animal control, business licensing, information technology, parks, television production and purchasing.

According the LV Sun (which covered yesterday’s joint press conference at City Hall), Rory got real specific-like:

“It would be a disservice to those who made sacrifices not to point out those who have not,” Reid said…

“I’m talking about firefighters.”

Bam!

Wonder how many hate-grams and I-hope-your-house-doesn’t-catch-on-fire emails Rory got yesterday?  And did he forward them to Steve Sisolak so they could commiserate about the joys of public office?

Rory and Oscar want county and city staff to offer suggestions for service join-ups by June.

Commissioner Sisolak told the Sun he thought the changes would save each government entity in the ballpark of $1.1 million.  If so, that’s a lotta bank, and good for them (both).

Also of interest, Sisolak said he thinks the county ought to push for “zero-based” budgeting on collective bargaining agreements.  In a nutshell, this means Talks would start at “0″ rather than status-quo (which includes all kinds of perks, bonuses and benefits).

Doubt that’ll happen, but a guy (or gal) can dream.

Bonus Materials:

As reported by an insider with close ties to both municipal chiefs, here are a few texts exchanged between new pals Rory and Oscar while that City Hall press conference was going on:

Oscar:  U gonna name names and call out firefighters like u promised?

Rory:  Having second thoughts. U do it.

Oscar:  No way! City employees already mad for layoffs threat. This one all u.

Rory:  I’m scared. Plus everyone hates u already, what’s BFD?

Oscar:  Look if u wanna be BMOC, u gotta do this stuff!!

Rory:  But I want everyone to like me.

Oscar:  WTF?! You are such a wimp!! Do it!!!!!!!!!

Rory:  Calm down! Jeez!! Did you skip martini this morning?

Oscar:  Spilled on drive here, forgot flask at home. Don’t change subject.  Say it!!

Rory:  All right! Will do. Sorry. Still BFFs?

Oscar:  4ever. Or at least ’til budget BS over.

Rory:  ok

Clark County Comissioner + Lobbyist + SNWA Board Member = Need to Abstain

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:42 pm February 26th, 2010

Steve Sebelius has an interesting piece up on Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins activities here in Carson City this week.  Seems he’s not only an elected official but also a lobbyist.  And on the board of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.  No ethics issues, necessarily, as long as Collins abstains from certain votes. Go read more.