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Clark County plans to keep ‘absolutely critical’ sales tax increase

Updated March 17, 2021 - 7:18 pm

When the Clark County Commission approved raising the sales tax by one-eighth of a cent in 2019, it did so knowing that funds were restricted to certain uses, including homelessness, affordable housing and early childhood education.

Nearly two years later, those categories have become even more important to officials seeking to address the wide-ranging effects of an unforeseen public health crisis.

Now county lawmakers have indicated that they plan to keep the tax increase beyond June, when it was set to expire, by lifting its sunset clause. Such a move will ensure that tens of millions of dollars in annual funding will continue to be collected throughout the county including in cities. The tax means consumers, including on the Las Vegas Strip, pay 1 more cent for every $8 they spend.

By direction of the commission Tuesday, the board is expected to introduce an ordinance next month to avoid ending the tax increase. A public hearing will be required two weeks later.

“I think that the action that we’re taking today sends a very clear message that we intend to lift the sunset,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said. “I think that there’s been a lot of discussion, both in our briefings and here in the meeting today, that suggests that we can’t do without these funds.”

By June 30, the tax is projected to have generated $68.5 million for the county since it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, according to figures presented Tuesday. It is anticipated to generate roughly $47 million in the upcoming fiscal year, officials say.

The tax increase, which raised the county’s sales tax to 8.375 percent, was authorized two years ago by the state Legislature through Assembly Bill 309, enabling county commissions in Nevada to pass a sales tax of up to one-quarter of 1 percent to fund specific programs.

At the time when the commission enacted the tax increase, it decided not to maximize its authority and instead bumped the sales tax by half the amount it was allowed because it was not clear that it could implement enough programs in short order.

Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick on Tuesday suggested that the board, however, could consider increasing the tax in the future.

In the present fiscal year, $23 million has gone to homelessness, $12 million to truancy prevention programs, $10 million to affordable housing, $9 million to hospitality workforce training, and millions of dollars more to early childhood and workforce education, according to the county.

Unlike with federal dollars such as coronavirus relief funding, the money collected through AB 309 provides the flexibility and sustainability to support programs into the future, Assistant County Manager Kevin Schiller said.

“I think this funding, if I was to put it in one sentence, is absolutely critical to the need of the community and our ability to get it out,” he said.

A previous version of this story misstated where the additional sales tax is collected. It is collected countywide, including in incorporated cities.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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