EDITORIAL: Henderson finances

There is one local government financial crisis in Southern Nevada. It’s in North Las Vegas, which has almost no reserves, is tens of millions of dollars in the hole and might yet be taken over by the state. It most certainly is not in Henderson. And yet Henderson might become the first valley municipality to raise property taxes in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

As reported Wednesday by the Review-Journal’s Arnold Knightly, the city’s Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee has recommended boosting property taxes by up to 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. An increase of that magnitude would add more than $122 to the annual property tax bill of a $175,000 home. It would also require a vote of city residents, who in 2012 overwhelmingly rejected a much smaller property tax increase to bolster library spending.

However, the City Council can raise the tax by up to 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation — less than $20 per year for a $175,000 home. The committee’s recommendation might provide the council with enough cover to do so.

But there’s a very good reason why local governments haven’t raised property taxes in recent years: Despite last year’s housing recovery, more than 40 percent of valley homes are still upside-down on their mortgages. Asking people to pay more to keep properties with no equity is bound to upset them.

Are Henderson’s finances in such bad shape that the city can’t function without the increase? Hardly. General fund spending has actually increased since the Great Recession, from $206.6 million in 2008 to $219.1 million today, despite reductions in Henderson’s workforce. And, according to TransparentNevada.com, nearly 1,200 of the city’s roughly 1,850 workers received at least $100,000 in total compensation in 2012.

There’s a long line of Nevada government entities clamoring for more tax dollars. If position in that line were based on need, Henderson would bring up the rear.

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