Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen didn’t say anything about raising property tax rates at Wednesday’s State of the City luncheon, but listeners could be excused for thinking he might be considering the idea.
Hafen told a packed ballroom at the Green Valley Ranch that the city had experienced hard times in recent years, and had made tough decisions to deal with them. The city has eliminated jobs, merged departments, deferred maintenance, extended the life of city vehicles and secured $49 million in concessions from its employees in the last few years.
Henderson has asked its workers to do more, even though there are fewer of them than most other cities in the valley. (Henderson has 6.8 employees per 1,000 residents; only North Las Vegas has fewer at 6.4 per 1,000.)
And, Hafen said, the city has done these things while maintaining a property tax rate of 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, the same rate it had in 1991. (By contrast, Las Vegas is at $1.06 per $100 of assessed valuation — a figure that includes money to support Metro Police — and North Las Vegas is at $1.16 per $100.)
In short, Henderson residents get a good return on their property-tax investment. (Full disclosure: I live in Henderson, and it is totally awesome.)
But because of a 3 percent property tax cap on residential property passed by the Legislature, Henderson’s revenues won’t return to pre-recession levels for 25 years, Haften said. In the meantime, the city needs to “reinvest” in vital services if it wants to continue as a “premier” city. That includes money for parks, trails, roads and a new police crime lab.
The mayor thanked an ad hoc budget committee that had reviewed the city’s books, looking for places to cut expenses and also to add revenue. The results of that committee’s work will come before the City Council soon.
And while the mayor said he hadn’t prejudged what course to take, it seemed he was laying the groundwork to look at an increase in property tax rates: First, he tried to show the city had done a good job managing its finances, despite not increasing rates for 23 years; second, he showed what alternatives had been tried (i.e. cutting personnel costs and limiting the payroll); third, he outlined things the city needs to do to succeed; and forth, he outlined a vision that will take more money to accomplish.
It’s entirely possible Henderson will proceed without looking to increase property tax rates. But if it does look to increase them, remember you heard it here first.