Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 128 – Town

Jim Clark did a good job on Sunday of recounting the history of efforts to bring more home rule to Incline and to stem the one-way flow of our tax money down the hill to other parts of Washoe County. It's well-documented that we send more over the mountain in taxes than we get back in services.


Jim and I take a certain amount of ribbing about being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and on many issues we certainly are, but on this one we have stood shoulder to shoulder for years and continue to do so.


Becoming a town won't cure all our ills. Only becoming a county would do that, and experience has shown that that ain't gonna happen in the foreseeable future. When I ran for the IVGID Board of Trustees two years ago, I made no secret of my view that we should be a county. Since then, convinced that a county, while ideal, is not possible, I've worked with the steering committee of Independent Incline to study what becoming a town would mean. Simply put, it would mean more home rule and more control over where (some of) our tax money goes.


Nevada state law as regards towns is pretty interesting. It allows counties to form towns, but if they do, the county must assign to the new town all the money that the county spends on any service the town takes over, and must do so forever. The town, on the other hand, gets to pick and choose what they take over from the county. In the interlocal agreement being worked out with Washoe County there is a provision that the new town can, at any time, take over more services from the county, and the county must assign the money for these services at that time.


It's a pretty good tenet that if something sounds like it doesn't have a down side, you should probably look more closely. Along with the rest of the committee we've looked as closely at this as I think it's possible, and so far I can't find a down side to it. By law, the formation of a town must be revenue-neutral – it can't cost us or the county money. No IVGID employee will lose their job, and we may add a few jobs using the money the county will transfer to us. I've heard it said that it will "add a layer of government," but that's just not so – IVGID, our current town government and infrastructure will be replaced by the Town and the infrastructure will transfer over. We can, and in my view should, add in our own development and zoning review process and maybe a nuisance review process. All of these will ultimately remain under the County's aegis, but if we look to the example of Minden, which did the same thing, we find that the County has overruled the local board in a minuscule percentage of cases and always due to something the local board missed. Yes we will have to present plans twice, but they're the same plans – no added work for the homeowner or developer, and we, as residents, have people representing us who actually live here.


Jim did, however, say one thing that will be a red flag to some people, so I'd like to comment on it. He referred to "a governmental structure nearly unlimited in its scope of authority as opposed to a GID which can only engage in 20 specific services." I can tell already that those 23 words out of the 645 in the article are all some people will remember. IVGID has been straining against the limitations of those "20 specific services" for as long as I can remember, but a GID is a "limited purpose government." A town is a "general purpose government," and so the residents can control their own destiny. As Jim said, we have more assets and a bigger budget than most Nevada cities. Shouldn't we be in charge of our own community?

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