WITH THE PROCLAMATION THAT “ IT’S EASIER TO LOWER TAXES THAN TO RAISE THEM” THE BRAKES HAVE BEEN APPLIED TO THE RUNAWAY TRAIN THAT IS THE “IMMEDIATE TAX REBATE BECAUSE I PROMISED” AS DECLARED BY COMMISSIONER JACK MCGUFFEY.
By Nicole Barde
During Staff updates Fire Chief Jeff Nevin said that our Storey firefighters had been helping out on numerous fires. He said that the dozen or so fires in the area were started as a result of shooting. As a result the Forest Service has implemented a ban on shooting on their land. Jeff also reported that the fireworks on the 4th were done well and that only one small fire was started and that was quickly put out due to the precautionary measures put in place to protect the area.
SIDENOTE: PLEASE….THINK about what you’re doing out there. There are a number of things that can start these fires. Shooting is one, chainsaws another, motorcycles/ATV’s are another….anything that can cause a spark.
Under Board comments Commissioner Jack McGuffey reported that the 5th annual car show was a success. Commission Chair Marshall McBride reported that the 4th of July was well attended and the fireworks were very well done.
The first agenda item and presentation was from Mike Kazmierski, President and CEO of Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). You can find his presentation HERE. It is an excellent overview of the progress to date and very much worth a look.
Mike started out by thanking Pat Whitten and the staff calling them “first class, collaborative, supportive and professional” to work with.
His key points were that in order to attract and retain the caliber of companies that we need there needs to be a skilled and robust workforce to fill their jobs. To that end EDAWN has a strong workforce development strategy in place to build that pipeline. Mike noted that 5 years ago only about 20-25% of UNR graduates stayed in Reno after graduation due to the limited employment market and that today that number is 75-80% because the job market has essentially exploded.
Additionally, he stressed that the growth that we have experienced in the last 5 years is not a bubble, that it is sustainable growth and that they project that it will continue thru the next 5 years. One of the things that he highlighted was that EDAWN has been able to attract substantial manufacturing to the area. That it’s gone from zero manufacturing 5 years ago to about 33% today and will grow going forward. These are good paying jobs that will “lift all boats” from an economic growth standpoint as it relates to dollars spent with our businesses.
Mike also reported that Northern Nevada gets about 8-10 company visits a month, that about 30 companies have landed in Storey County since 2012 and that approximately 3300 new jobs have been created in 2016.
Mike said that there are 5 pending announcements in the pipeline which should bring in about 1000 jobs. There are also 8 company prospects that they are currently working with which should yield about 3100 jobs. Again, his presentation has a great deal of detail and I encourage you to read it HERE.
Next up was U.S. Congressman (NV-Ret) John Porter a member of the Storey County Federal Governmental Affairs group….ie our Washington D.C. lobbyist. The agenda item read that he would be providing an “update on federal matters of interest” which includes the zip code issue, the Public Lands conveyance and taxing of internet purchases. What the majority of the time was spent on however was self-congratulatory comments, backslapping of the Commission and the staff and general smoke blowing with no new or forward looking information on the key issues. All on our nickel! The information conveyed was essentially:
-it’s an interesting time in the swamp
-disruption is happening in D.C. causing confusion since there is no predictability
-that when the president moves his laser light (you know…what you use to play with your cats) that everyone moves in the direction he moves it to….and he does that a lot.
-and….hang on to your hats…it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
This “ report” was an EXPENSIVE YAWN.
Next up was an interesting discussion on a resolution to expand a rail-oriented land ferry system thru TRIC presented by Robinson Foster of The Steel Interstate Coalition, a non-profit. In a nutshell they are asking the Commission to officially support (not pay for), thru a resolution, a feasibility study exploring the viability of this concept. The request for the study would be sent to the Nevada Department of Transportation. The concept is to remove much of the trucking traffic from our roads and Interstates by loading the trucks on land ferry’s which will use the rail system to get them to their destinations. There is already an effort to move the shipping containers out of our western ports thru rail to Utah to then be processed there. The containers would typically be hauled by trucks to the various destinations. This concept if it pencils out to be a benefit would be a public-private partnership which…..sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
Sam Toll , StoreyTelleronline Editor got up to ask how this compares to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept and how this would avoid the cost overrun issues that the $60 billion dollar “Bullet train to nowhere” in Central California encountered. The response was that Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept requires the development of new technologies and infrastructure which pushes its full utilization far into the future. In contrast, the Land Ferry system will be utilizing the existing rail system with only a few additional elements (depots/loading stations) and the implementation would be very quick. As for the $60 billion dollar “train to nowhere” this effort would be a public-private partnership and the profit motive should keep it from making some of those same mistakes.
Anyway this is in its preliminary stages….more later I’m sure.
Next up was the approval of $230,413 to purchase a software replacement for the current antiquated Tax Collection, Assessment and Building Permit software packages. ADS the company who created and manages our current system is phasing this software out. In addition to the 5 year contract to develop, implement and maintain this software the county will also need to upgrade its hardware. Apparently we are running on IBM mainframes last seen in 1987. So that will be another $50-100k. I think this is all good. It looks like the county has squeezed out every last drop of utility from both the software and the hardware..so that’s laudable. The thing that bothers me is that they want to implement this quickly and will not be running parallel systems before crossing over to the new software. This is probably due to the phase-out at the end of this year…….however I have been thru MANY, MANY major systems implementations and having the parallel process is the ONLY hedge against disaster…..even with parallel implementation there is a risk of screw-ups…let’s all pray that this sucker goes off without a hitch…if it doesn’t our data is at risk and we won’t be able to conduct county business…it’ll be back to sharp pencils and reams of paper…
OK, I saved the best for last. At the June 20th Commission meeting Commissioner Jack McGuffey, grandstanding like nobody’s business, demanded that we implement a tax rollback/rebate/giveaway IMMEDIATELY!!!
He said that he had made a campaign promise (actually Commissioner Lance did) and that TRI was gushing with revenues so the people need to benefit from that. Pat Whitten and the other Commissioners all joined in drinking this Kool Aid. My head exploded at that time since no one to date had done any real analysis of current and future revenue and expense streams to determine what the budget landscape would look like 5-10 years out…but I digress.
When Comptroller Hugh Gallagher tried to tell the Commission that it was too late to do it for this budget year and that it might NOT be able to be done in exactly that way….they shot him down and said that they believe that it can be done and with a smile and a wink said…”we’ll put the lawyers on it!!!!!. They agenized a “plan for a plan” for today’s meeting. The agenda item read “Setting a date for a workshop to discuss possible Ad Valorem rate reduction”
SO……I was looking forward to hearing about how this tax thing was going to get done since it has been promised and a done deal since Lance issued the command to the staff to “make it so” in 2014.
Well………….needless to say someone got pulled up by their short hairs. The discussion began with Marshall saying that they are not saying that it can’t be done but that “it’s easier to lower taxes than it is to raise them”…really?
He went on to say that they have to really study this more since if they make a mistake it would be disastrous for the county…he reminisced about how bad it was during the recession and how they had to lay people off as a result of decreased revenues and he said that they needed to be conservative in their actions. Pat Whitten said that they would be hiring an outside agent to do a thorough study….My head exploded.
What is wrong with them????? But I digress.
Blah, Blah and they set a new date for revisiting this topic, hopefully with some actual data and projections. That date is in September.
During public comment on this item, TRIC and Lance Gilman employee Kris Thompson got up to exclaim that he and TRI are in full support for the most rapid implementation of a roll back ASAP! That it can be done over a 10 year span. He further said that TRIC is prospering and that it’s time to start putting a structure in place to do this!!!
I found this interesting so I got up to ask about the $19,000 tax study that Lance commissioned last year to look into the viability of a tax rollback/rebate.
SIDENOTE: The existence of this report was disclosed by Kris Thompson on the Highlands Message board during one of his lengthy promotions of Lance’s largess. At the time I got up during a commission meeting to inquire about the report and to ask to see it as a public record. I was told that the Commission had never seen it. That what Lance does as a private citizen isn’t public record so no, I could not see it from them.
So, the Commission told me again that they had never seen Lance’s tax study. I then asked that since they were going to commission a study if they would they be getting a copy of that report. Kris Thompson responded that YES he will get that report to the county.
My bet is that it never sees the light of day.
Also during Public Comment Sam Toll , StoreyTelleronline Editor, got up to suggest that the Commission look at all the different ways to use the revenues gushing from TRIC, not just a tax rollback. He mentioned that maybe paying off our “credit cards” (i.e., ~ $45 million TRI debt) might be a good thing to do. Pat Whitten said that the terms of the debt were too good to have to pay it off since the debt is interest free. Okay fine………………
At the end of the meeting Sam Toll got up to once again ask the Commission to put the public first and move Public Comment to the front of the meeting. Smiles all around but no response.