Taxpayers in the Las Vegas City Schools district are in for a 30 percent property tax increase when the county treasurer sends out the bills next month.
But on the west side of the river, residents are actually seeing a big cut. Last year, the property tax bill for my New Mexico Avenue house came in at $784. This year, $686 — a 14 percent drop.
That’s all thanks to the bond schedule in the West Las Vegas district. Whatever the case, I can’t stop humming the Dons’ fight song.
If I lived on the east side of the river, my bill would have skyrocketed to $1,019.
No wonder east-side residents are hopping mad. And not a surprise that the school board is looking for whose head to roll.
To add to the drama, the school board election is just around the corner — in early 2011.
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Despite the good fortune of west-side residents, we certainly must give a lot of attention to what’s going on with the Las Vegas City Schools.
The district has an explanation for the tax hike: A wrongly recorded surplus in a debt service account caused tax rates to drop last year. So district residents saw a small tax cut last year. Now the district has to make up for it.
But the tax increase this year is more than four times the 2009 cut in the East district. A state official said the way the bonds were set up, east-side residents were bound to get a huge tax increase in any case.
How could the district not know this was coming? After all, the district’s own business manager, Myrna Garcia, acknowledged that she moved money around last year to cover the shortfall in the debt service account. And the district’s well-paid bond guy, Al Clemmons, set up the bond schedule.
At every bond election, we always hear how our rates will stay the same. Yet this year, East is going way up and West way down.
So much for stability.
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When covering most stories, we quickly get a grasp on the facts. However, the issues surrounding East’s surprise tax hike have been complicated. Bond schedules are never easy stuff, which is why most school districts hire fancy financial advisers from the big city.
It took weeks for us to get basic answers to many of our questions. That’s not because the school district was stonewalling us. It was because East officials themselves were struggling to understand what happened.
Now, we have gotten the take of most of the people involved in this mess. It sure would be nice to get the opinion of an independent third party. That’s where the state auditor comes in. That official, Hector Balderas, has already expressed an interest.
David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.