OUR VIEW: Correcting math raises questions

In the Aug. 24 edition of The Sun, we ran an editorial titled, “County is on good path, still work to do.”

We wrote that editorial based on our own flawed math regarding the impact of a lowered tax rate approved by the Clark County Fiscal Court this week. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

We corrected the mistake in a front-page story today, and while some of our points about the lowered rate are no longer valid, our opinion about the matter is largely the same: a break for taxpayers is always a welcome thing as long as the county can continue to operate efficiently, staff its departments sufficiently and does not need to reduce services.

It appears, from conversations with magistrates, the county can continue to make strides forward while offering a slight break to taxpayers. And while the break is even slighter than initially reported, it is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, the court approved the first reading of an ordinance to set the tax rates at 9.1 cents per $100 value for real property and 12.38 cents for personal property. The difference would be about $43,000 less in revenue for the year.

While residents will only see a $2 decrease in a tax bill for a $100,000 home rather than the initial $200 we reported, the ability to reduce rates at all is still a signal the county has a healthy financial status.

Magistrates Daniel Konstantopoulos and Shiela McCord spoke with reporter Fred Petke about why they voted for a decrease that could appear to some as inconsequential.

Especially in an election year, such a minor impact could appear as nothing more than a surface-level attempt for magistrates running for re-election to say they lowered taxes.

However, it appears the decision was made with an understanding the additional revenue isn’t necessary at this point to operate the county as needed.

“Konstantopoulos said the county carried over nearly $1.8 million from the previous fiscal year so the loss in revenue was not significant,” Petke reported. “Property values have increased and the economy is stronger, he said, so similar revenue can be generated with a slightly lower rate.”

So, although we support the logic of this decision and the economic progress that makes it possible, we have to wonder if there aren’t better ways for these dollars to impact our citizens.

While most taxpayers will not balk at even a minuscule reduction in their tax bills, the fact is that decrease in revenue could fund a full-time employee.

Maybe it goes toward hiring a firefighter in the county’s department? It could hire part-time or seasonal help for the road crew in the busy winter months. The $43,000 could be significant when you think of it as a valued employee in the county’s workforce. Perhaps that person is more valuable to the taxpayer than a $2 or $4 reduction to their annual tax bill.

Could these dollars be used to supplement existing funding for economic development projects or to create a marketing program that would help “sell” Clark County to visitors and potential businesses?

Would it be more valuable to put these funds toward city-county partnerships like law enforcement or improving our green spaces?

These are all questions the court will likely need to answer before the rate is finalized with a second reading of the tax rate ordinance.

The easy solution is to reduce taxes. But, based on the minimal financial impact to taxpayers, we think the county should look long and hard at other ways to make a difference in the lives of Clark Countians.