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News / Clark County News

Stewart offers plan for savings

Instead of tax cut pushed by Madore, she eyes paying debt

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: October 21, 2015, 8:10pm

In her first major policy proposal since taking office, Clark County Councilor Jeanne Stewart offered a revised version of Councilor David Madore’s tax-cut proposal that she says will save taxpayers more money in the long run.

Rather than cut the county’s general-fund property tax levy by 2 percent, or $1.2 million, as Madore proposed, Stewart, a Republican, instead suggested at Wednesday’s board time meeting that the county divert $1.2 million a year from its general fund to help pay off its $122.5 million in debt.

That could save the county $4.3 million in interest payments over 20 years, according to estimates Stewart presented. It also would enable the county to pay off its current debt by 2030 instead of 2035, according to her estimates.

“By paying down the debt, the interest we would save is substantial,” she said. “It gives us more flexible money for our general fund.”

And in the long run, Stewart said, paying off debt will save Clark County taxpayers more money than Madore’s proposal.

“That really is the best outcome for the citizens,” she said.

The Clark County Treasurer’s Office estimates the average homeowner would only save $7 to $8 a year if the council cuts property taxes by 2 percent, as Madore proposed. Treasurer Doug Lasher, a Democrat, pointed out that the savings would be equivalent to a couple of lattes a year.

Larry Frueh, a finance manager in the Clark County Treasurer’s Office, confirmed Stewart’s estimates.

“It saves (money) for everybody,” Frueh said.

But Stewart received a lukewarm response from her fellow Republican councilors.

Madore praised Stewart for bringing an idea to the table, but said that the county already has been working hard to reduce debt. This year, for example, the county used $4.04 million in general-fund money to pay off part of about $7.75 million in debt, refinancing the rest through the Bank of America at a substantially lower interest rate.

Madore again said reducing taxes is the best policy for Clark County, adding that county policies that reduce taxes already have supported job and business growth in the region.

“So many businesses are fleeing (California) because they’re being taxed to death,” he said.

But Stewart disputed that any county policy has been the sole cause of job growth.

“The growth in Clark County is coming at the natural time that it should, whether the three of us were here or not,” Stewart said.

Councilor Tom Mielke, meanwhile, recommended the county find cost savings elsewhere in the budget to accommodate a tax cut, such as eliminating vacant positions.

In an interview following the meeting, Stewart said Madore’s plan is nothing more than a resume-padder for Madore and Mielke, both of whom are eligible for re-election in 2016.

“If we wanted to show the taxpayers that we’re wanting to be responsible and responsive, there has to be a better way to do it,” she said.

Despite the reaction from her fellow councilors, Stewart said she may revisit the issue.

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Columbian Education Reporter