Saturday, March 26, 2005

Column 24 - The Walker Report

Some time ago the County engaged a consulting firm, Walker and Associates, to analyze “fiscal equity among the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the County for Fiscal Year 2002-03.” That is, to see if the County’s distribution of funding for services matched its collection of funds. The study is very extensive – the Executive Summary is 8 pages long – and also very well done, in this consultant’s opinion. From Incline’s point of view, the key findings are put forth in the Executive Summary as follows:

1) The taxpayers of the City of Reno receive more services from Washoe Comity than the amount of taxes they pay to the County to the tune of $3,918,179.

2) The taxpayers of the City of Sparks receive more services from Washoe County than the amount of taxes they pay to me County by $2,637,959.

3) The taxpayers of the unincorporated areas of Washoe County, excluding Incline Village, pay more taxes to the County than they receive in services from the County. The surplus is $1,835,871.

4) The taxpayers of Incline Village pay more taxes to the County than they receive in services from the County. The surplus in Incline Village tax revenue to the County is $11,713,263.

Yep, you read it right. Reno receives $4 million more in services than they pay for and Incline pays for $11.7 million more than we receive. This confirms figures first put forward in 2003 by IVGID Executive Director Bill Horn that formed the basis for what began as an IVGID committee to look into how best to remedy this situation, and then for a community committee independent of IVGID, the Independent Incline Committee.

As a member of both committees from their inception, I’ve had people in our community express everything from apathy to outrage about this state of affairs, and propose solutions ranging from doing nothing to seceding from the State, if not from the country.

It is past time for everyone in Incline Village and Crystal Bay to give some serious thought to this situation. While Reno is not posing any current threat to attempt to annex Incline, that possibility is not at all far-fetched given Reno’s aggressive expansion. Even without Reno’s eyeing us, the imbalance in how much tax money we give Washoe County vs. what the County provides in services is unconscionable – given we are represented by one out of five County Commissioners, (who also represents other parts of the County), it amounts to taxation without (or at best with inadequate) representation. If we are going to subsidize Reno and Sparks, we should at least have a choice about it.

It is clear that hiding our communal head in the sand will not work – the subsidy we provide to the County is a strong disincentive for the County to do anything about the inequity, and no one has yet shown me that incorporating as a city, which would protect us from Reno’s depredations, would affect the inequity. My own view is that we must move aggressively on all fronts to become a county separate from Washoe by the 2007 legislative session. You may or may not agree, but whatever your view it is essential that every IV/CB taxpayer address the issue and make their opinions known to the committee that is investigating our options.

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