EDITORIAL: Property taxes

It’s hard to let go of the good old days. But they aren’t coming back. Some of today’s reminders of life before the Great Recession remain especially painful. Like home values.

Although the housing market has made a nice comeback this year, huge numbers of valley homeowners are still upside down on their mortgages, owing more to their lenders than their homes are worth. It’s an anchor on their finances. One respite for these Nevadans, who’ve battled joblessness and income reductions to boot: The drop in property taxes that accompanied their collapsed values.

It’s hard to let go of the good old days. But they aren’t coming back. Falling property tax collections wreaked havoc on Nevada government budgets. Only seven years ago, elected officials could bank on an unending, ever-larger stream of revenues to fund their operations. In the aftermath of the economy’s collapse, they have had to prioritize spending like never before. And many tough budget choices lie ahead.

Just as taxpaying homeowners would love to go back to the good old days, when they had substantial home equity, many of our elected officials want a return to the time when they had more spending money. On Monday, the Review-Journal held its third Hashtags &Headlines policy luncheon, a discussion on municipal issues with the valley’s three mayors. Las Vegas’ Carolyn Goodman, Henderson’s Andy Hafen and North Las Vegas’ John Lee said they would like to see the Legislature ease the property tax abatements that limit increases in property tax bills, thereby boosting their tax collections.

The caps, passed in 2005 to prevent huge spikes in property tax bills during the state’s real estate boom, limit annual tax bill increases to 3 percent for owner-occupied residential properties and 8 percent for residential rental and commercial properties.

“It is not looking for additional resources, it is trying to get back to where we were,” Mr. Hafen said.

But homeowners, business owners and taxpayers aren’t anywhere close to where they were before the Great Recession. Considering the valley’s cities are still relying on reserves to support operations, and that elected officials have done precious little to dial back the lavish salaries and benefits of municipal workers, higher property tax bills can’t be justified.

It’s hard to let go of the good old days. But they aren’t coming back.

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