Summary of the June 20, 2017 Storey County Commission meeting

 

IN AN ASTONISHING DISPLAY OF ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION COMMISSIONER JACK MCGUFFEY DEMANDED THAT THE COUNTY ROLL BACK PROPERTY TAXES AS HE PROMISED IN HIS 2014 CAMPAIGN ...............FORGETTING THAT IT WAS COMMISSIONER LANCE GILMANS CAMPAIGN PROMISE IN HIS ELECTION OF 2012 AND IN HIS UNIVERSAL PROCLAMATION OF DECEMBER 2014 AND EVERY PUBLIC EVENT THEREAFTER.

LET THE RE-ELECTION GAMES BEGIN!!!!!!

 

 

 

By Nicole Barde

Bardeblog.com

You can find the Agenda HERE and County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE. If you want to listen to the meeting you can access the recording HERE.

This was a fairly procedural meeting with a few exceptions. County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary does a good job of capturing all of the business conducted. As for the rest of the meeting I am still confused….but I digress.

First up was a presentation by NDOT on projects approved for Storey County. The presentation went smoothly but what happened after the presentation was interesting.

Specifically the Seymour family got up to continue to request that NDOT take responsibility for the failing retaining wall on their property at the North entrance of town. No one has any documentation that NDOT built the highway, nor that they required the retaining wall for its completion and yet the Seymour’s home is sinking and is a slip slide away from collapse if the hill isn’t stabilized.  I have seen them at every meeting that NDOT is present at with this request and my heart goes out to them since it is obvious, at least to me, that the STATE built that road so should step up and fix this problem. These are good people and they don’t deserve this treatment.

After this sidestepping trip in denial about the retaining wall the topic of the “culturally inappropriate”..aka ugly and disgusting sculpture that NDOT is forcing TRI to erect at one of the entrances came up. Suffice to say that we don’t want it…it’s ugly….that they want us to have it….too bad. This exchange got testy on both sides. The Commission was told that they had a chance to vote on it but only Dean Haymore was at the (secret) meeting where the vote took place. Apparently this meeting was full of Lyon County people who voted to send this atrocity to TRI rather than put it in their own back yard.  This isn’t over. Lines are drawn, tempers are short…. As I say when the cat’s tails are all fluffed out and they are facing off…..”somewhere, somehow, someone’s gonna get bit”

Some key items from staff updates are:

St. Mary’s Executive Director Arika Perry got up to thank several county employees for their help in fixing some longstanding issues with the property including repaving the driveway and other dirt work. She thanked board member Jack McGuffey and Public Works Director Jason van Havel for making the paving happen, VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson for bringing some really “hot” cars to the property for a photo shoot, Community Services Director Cherie Nevin for helping with funding and County Manager Pat Whitten for his overall support. I can attest to the fact that the county does an excellent job of helping out the various community organizations when help is needed. This is yet another example of how they do it.

Retiring Community Development Director Dean Haymore made a brief comment that 10 year employee Stacy Bucchianeri  left Community Development the previous week…no fanfare with this announcement. He also noted that there is a lot of activity in building permits for single family dwellings all over the county. He said that it is 100% growth in housing starts over the last several years. TRI is also booming with 2 new hotels going in along with the other activity.

Jason Van Havel, Public Works Director announced that the County was approved to receive #1.4 million from the Fed thru NDOT for more work on 6 Mile.

Pat Whitten announced that the lobbyists for the county, Porter and Associates, will be doing a legislative update at the July 18th Commission meeting.

Board comment was next and I have to admit that I was confused during this time.

Commissioner Jack McGuffey made note that he had made a campaign promise to lower property taxes as a result of the revenues coming from TRI. He further stated that since the General Fund will have an ending on hand balance of $7.4 million this fiscal year that he INSISTS AND DEMANDS AN IMMEDIATE DECREASE IN PROPERTY TAXES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!

He was loud and proud when he said this.

He was reminded by Commission Chair Marshall McBride that this topic had to be agenized since no decision or action could be made in THIS meeting.

SIDE NOTE: First of all the only “platform” that Jack ran on as far as I can recall, and as reported in the Comstock Chronicle at the time, was “they want me”. “They” being the county leaders. Trust me….that was IT…I was there.

Second, Lance Gilman ran his campaign in 2012 with the promise to reduce taxes as TRI started to bring in more revenues. Lance, to his credit, is in a position to make this happen. Did Jack forget this?

Lance further made a specific request and instructed the staff to start to work on a feasibility study in his one and only Yuletide Proclamation of December 2014. Jack was there, did he forget this?

Additionally, Lance has been proclaiming that we are the richest place on earth in every venue he appears at……and I have been asking about our tax decrease for over 2 years…

At NO TIME has Jack ever referred to any campaign promise or spoken up on this topic except to agree that it needed to be done or to “applaud” Lance for doing it since this has been Lance’s deal. So my confusion stems from Jack’s apparent “bogarting” of Lance’s commitment…..and Lance letting him do it.  Guess he has started his re-election campaign and needs visible community contributions to trot out…………even if they are not his.

Next came the resolutions honoring retiring Community Development Director Dean Haymore and retiring Fire Chief Gary Hames. I like this particular ceremony. It is both touching and shows class on the part of our leaders and community.  Congrats and farewell to them both!

Next came the budget augmentations for several budgets. NRS has a provision in it so that the county can increase or augment their budget higher than it was approved for in cases where revenues come in higher than originally forecasted and approved. Remember, the budget has to balance to be approved so if your expenses come in over that approval without a corresponding increase in revenues you get taken to the woodshed I think….not sure… The total increase to the budget expenses from the General Fund was $513,500 and for the Fire District was $58k. The money went to Communications, Sheriff’s Office, Comptroller, Justice Court, I.T., Mutual Aid and the DA departments.

The items being covered were for everything from replacing damaged vehicles ($37,500), to a new computer system ($126k) to storm damage expenses to salaries and overtime.

After numerous business related items already covered in Pat Whitten’s summary came item #23 which was the Approval of the Resolution to set the Tax Rate Levy for the (just approved) 2017/2018 budget year. What this means is that the tax revenues projected in the budget are derived from this tax levy number. If you decrease the tax levy number then your tax revenues go down. If your tax revenues go down then the budget is at risk of not being balanced unless you fluff up the revenues thru another source or you decrease your expenses.

This item is basically a formality since the tax rate approved and used for the creation of the 2017/2018 budget is a done deal. This should have been done in February of this year BEFORE the budget process but I guess they forgot to do it. It has to be approved by June 30th next week or Vanessa Stephens, County Clerk,  can’t send any tax bills out to us residents…..since she won’t know what rate to use since none was approved….late tax bills, late revenues…..oh my!

At this point there was a conversation reminiscent of “Who’s on first, What’s on second, When is next to Which”. Commissioner Lance Gilman stated that he did not want to vote on this item until it was determined IF a property tax rollback/decrease was feasible in this budget cycle. Commissioner Jack McGuffey agreed and reiterated his strong, loud and proud demand that we do it immediately.  Apparently the higher than anticipated General Fund balance is enough to offset any loss of revenues.

It was brought up that this was a formality and that essentially business would stop if it is not approved by June 30th.  The Commission then talked among themselves until a date was set for a special meeting to vote on this item as well as to know more about a property tax rollback/decrease. The special meeting will be on Friday June 30th. Talk about cutting it close!

Hugh Gallagher has already left the room after the earlier discussion to see if it was possible to change the tax rate that the budget was based on in order to do the rollback/decrease. He returned to say that he was told no by Taxation. The commission determined that the question needed to go to the lawyers to determine its feasibility……whew!

My advice is don’t get your hopes up on this. If they do manage to ram it thru it’ll likely be a very small symbolic decrease to prove that they did something and Jack and Lance can claim victory. Remember, the counties at NACO and Jack as our representative to NACO have been lobbying for a lifting of the tax cap so they can RAISE taxes on us….so I don’t understand this move at this time. Lowering our tax now to raise them later?

While I appreciate any and all tax decreases I don’t appreciate doing something for show or just to say you did it. It has to be a meaningful decrease to count in MY book and it has to be sustainable.   We are seeing an increase i

n revenue due to the building activity at TRI but looking at the budgets over time the trend in revenue is flat so far.

In reality, the TRI abatements are a whopping $5 million on a revenue base of about $12 million and we don’t know what the Governor will do to us with Switch and others down the road. We are also losing money due to the zip code issue so unless that gets fixed soon how prudent is it to do this now when we haven’t stabilized our ongoing and future TRI revenues?

But hey….that’s just me. I need to be able to project more stability before I spend or cut revenues.

 

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