Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Do Fernley & North Las Vegas Have in Common? (More Than You Think...)

Last week, we were surprised by the City of Fernley filing a federal law suit challenging the current "C-Tax" revenue distribution. But in the coming weeks, will we hear more complaints about "C-Tax" inequity down south?

Long before Fernley dropped the big "game changer" law suit, the Nevada Legislature had already begun studying the current C-Tax structure to spot inequities in need of correction. Last month, this report detailing distribution of C-Tax revenue was submitted. Now pay close attention to Pages 48 & 49 in that report. Notice something strange?

Now go to Pages 168 & 169. Even though North Las Vegas has 217,482 residents compared to Henderson's 267,270 residents, Henderson receives just over DOUBLE the amount of C-Tax funds. (North Las Vegas received $36,539,000 in C-Tax funds last year, while Henderson received $73,965,000 in C-Tax funds last year.) Why? Apparently, it's all because the assessed value of Henderson properties is over double that of North Las Vegas. OK, that seems "kinda sorta" logical... But is that really constitutional?

Remember, Fernley is claiming that the current C-Tax structure violates both the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 3 of Nevada's Constitution in that it provides anything but equal protection under the law. Even though Fernley faces different structural issues from North Las Vegas, mainly that Lyon County provides police and fire services to Fernley, while North Las Vegas has to pay for its own, North Las Vegas' sad situation seems to strengthen Fernley's case that the C-Tax structure indeed denies many Nevadans equal protection under the law.

For instance, take a look at the local libraries. The C-Tax funds from the state provide direct funding to Las Vegas-Clark County and Henderson Libraries. North Las Vegas, on the other hand, has two libraries that are funded directly by the city. So in essence, North Las Vegas residents have to pay additional taxes for something that Henderson, Las Vegas, and unincorporated Clark County residents receive for no additional tax or fee. What's fair or equal about that?

Much has been said lately about the many woes at North Las Vegas City Hall. For one, many residents still question the move to a new City Hall. And it's looking increasingly possible that North Las Vegas will have to dissolve its own police and fire departments and contract with Clark County instead to save money. (Though unlike Fernley, North Las Vegas will still be paying for it regardless.) But even with that being said, should North Las Vegas residents essentially be punished just because of their zip code?

Believe it or not, Fernley may have found a real civil rights violation here. Why are some cities receiving more funding per capita than others? Yes, I know, it has to do with property values... But should that really be allowed to be a factor in what kind of local government one can expect? Should someone's zip code and/or property value determine whether one can expect a functioning library and adequate police service? Nevada, we have a problem... And it's bigger than even I had initially suspected.

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