Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Madore proposes property tax cut

2% drop would lead to $1.2 million less in revenue, could spur countywide cuts

By , Columbian Education Reporter

A proposal by Clark County Councilor David Madore to reduce property taxes could lead to countywide cuts, possibly including layoffs, county budget staff said Wednesday.

During the council’s weekly board time meeting, Madore, a Republican, proposed reducing Clark County’s property tax revenue by 2 percent. That would lead to a $1.2 million reduction in the county’s projected property tax revenue of $57 million.

The board will revisit the issue next week, but Madore said he’s ready to vote to direct county staff to begin planning for a budget that includes the decrease. Republican Councilor Tom Mielke also praised the plan.

“I like the idea. I support the idea,” said Mielke, but adding that he has concerns and wants to consult with other county elected officials to see where they stand.

Republican Councilor Jeanne Stewart, meanwhile, was a fervent opponent of the proposal.

County budget projections indicate that, assuming the county maintains its current policy of not increasing property taxes, expenses will outpace revenue as early as next year. The county is projected to take in $149 million and spend $151 million, dipping into its reserve funds. By 2020, the county is projected to take in $160 million that year and spend $171 million. Assuming that pattern continues, Clark County will end 2020 with a $4 million net deficit.

But assuming a 2 percent reduction, Clark County next year will take in about $148 million and spend $151 million. If that policy carries through 2020, the county will end the year with an $11 million deficit.

The county tries to keep a $23 million general fund reserve in case of unexpected costs, according to budget staff.

Furthermore, those projections don’t account for costly “immediate pressing needs” the county faces in the coming year, including an estimated $6 million to $10 million in upgrades to the county’s phone and computer systems, $1.5 million in park funds maintenance and $800,000 for a new jail ventilation system.

“How does that fit logically with reducing property taxes by 2 percent?” Stewart asked.

In defense of his proposal, Madore evoked a story about an elderly woman nicknamed “Grandma.” During one of his early campaign events in 2012, Grandma complained that her rising property tax bill was placing her out of her home, he said. Reducing taxes would protect Grandma and make housing more affordable, he said.

In an interview last week, Treasurer Doug Lasher, a Democrat, said a 2 percent property tax decrease for the average owner of a $280,000 home would translate to an annual savings of about $7.33.

“I’m scratching my head over this, because it sounds good, but you’re talking about people losing their jobs over two lattes,” Lasher said.

Stewart also has the backing of other members of county budget staff.

Deputy Treasurer John Payne was critical of the proposal. For him, cutting $1.2 million from the county budget translates to cutting 12 sheriff’s deputies.

“We’re mid-budget cycle, making major policy changes,” Payne told the council. “For me to comprehend this, it’s just hard.”

Finance Director Mark Gassaway also said the revenue reduction would mean significant cuts.

“What you’re asking us to do in 2016 to balance the budget is intervene,” Gassaway said. “We had planned $1.2 million in property taxes that’s not going to be there.”

Clark County will approve next year’s supplemental budget, with or without changes to property taxes, in December.

Columbian Education Reporter