(Thomas Mitchell/4TH ST8) The Review-Journal reports today that two Southern Nevada local elected officials were in Carson City at something called the Local Government Summit demanding that their constituents pay higher property tax rates in order to fund vital services.
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins was quoted as saying, “You can’t go on trying to run your city on half the property tax” compared to before the recession. “Raise the damn property tax.”
The story quoted Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross as saying, “We cannot continue to do it the same way. … We don’t want Band-Aids on us anymore,” arguing that local governments should be given more authority to raise taxes without permission from the Legislature.
Let’s see, homes are worth half what they were before the recession, so revenue from property taxes are down commensurately. Also many homes are vacant. Makes sense.
People’s assets are down, unemployment is still in the 12 percent range and many are working part-time. They have less money to pay for anything. They are having to be more frugal.
So, let’s take a look at how tough things are at the county and city for their poor, poor put-upon workers who provide such vital services as taking our money for fines and fees, inspecting our new water heaters and pushing sundry piles of paper.
At the county, according to records maintained by the Nevada Policy Research Institute at transparentnevada.com, in 2011 there were 2,511 county employees being paid total wages and benefits in excess of $100,000 a year. Among those are such highly technical skills as painter, carpenter, electrician, executive assistant and county commissioner. Tom Collins had pay and benefits of $108,000. To eliminate some of the myriad part-timers, I counted all those fetching more than $20,000 a year and found there were 7,077. Thus, 35 percent of all county employees are paid — I daren’t say earned — more than $100K.
Meanwhile, over at the city of Las Vegas, we find that in 2011 it paid 1,598 staffers $100,000 or more. Councilman Steve Ross fell just under the mark with $98,000. But, if you compare the $100K club to all being paid more than $20,000, that comes to a whopping 65 percent.
Of course, they’ve surely tightened their belts due to the recession, right? In 2007 the county paid just over 1,000 staffers more than $100,000 — an increase in four years of two and half times. In 2007 the city paid almost 500 employees $100,000 —that number more than tripled.
Collins told the Review-Journal he is an average person whose salary has dropped. Well, actually his salary as a commissioner has risen from $70,000 in 2007. Maybe he lost income because he had to give up some of this unethical lobbying gigs.
I believe the school district’s attempt to raise property taxes got voted down, for reasons such as those spelled out by a Review-Journal letter writer.
As we used to say down on the farm, “service” is what the bull does to the cow.