Rare council configuration approves tax increases
On Tuesday, the Clark County Council narrowly approved a 1 percent plus banked capacity increase to both the property tax and road fund with a 3-2 vote. It was the only day such a vote could have occurred and the only day the three councilors voting for the tax increases – Julie Olson, Temple Lentz and Sue Marshall – will ever serve on the council together.
The Dec. 6 council meeting was the council’s last scheduled meeting of the year and the final meeting for Lentz and Olson, who chose not to run for reelection. Marshall, who was sworn in on Nov. 30 to replace outgoing Councilor Richard Rylander, Jr., cast her first vote as a county councilor earlier that same meeting.
Olson said she was supporting the tax increases recommended by County Manager Kathleen Otto because, despite the recent increase in revenue, the county has been struggling for years to balance its budget.
“We don’t want to be back there,” Olson said. “Every single year we’re trying to find budget savings, we’re trying to find salary savings, we have budget interventions to try to make sure we can balance our budget. Every single year.”
Olson said there’s no way to know if the increase in sales tax revenue the county has seen for the past two years will last, nor will the federal pandemic monies awarded in 2021. She said the county must take steps now to ensure it can cover its expenses in the future.
Otto said the council has not taken the 1 percent property tax increase allowed by state law for six out of the last 10 years. Without the tax increase, Otto said expenses would outpace revenue by 2026.
Lentz said the county has a social contract with residents to provide services in return for their tax dollars and the county delivers on that contract.
“The amount of service that constituents receive for the tax dollars they pay to Clark County is incredible, especially when you take into consideration the fact that we do have staff who are underpaid and who are overworked … people are having to do more and more with less and less,” Lentz said. “We’re still providing very good service across the board.”
The council’s work on the 2023 budget isn’t over yet. The council still has to approve a capital budget and a salary study for sheriff’s office deputies and other county employees will soon be complete. That will leave the council wrestling with how to pay for needed pay raises. Those issues and others will be tackled after the new council, which includes Michelle Belkot and Glen Yung, meets for the first time in January.