“Good luck” is the most common parting expression tourists hear in Las Vegas, a tacit acknowledgement that those visiting Sin City are usually headed to the nearest casino. Few would expect that it’s also appropriate for Nevadans who have sought comprehensive tax reform for more than 50 years.
Since 1959, the state has commissioned seven wide-ranging overviews of the state’s tax structure, including the property tax assessment process.
As discussed on ValueAppeal.com late last year, Nevada is the only state that uses the “taxable-value” method to assess property. It relies on the full cash value of land, plus replacement cost of improvements, minus 1.5% depreciation per year on those improvements. But because the state provides no standards to its 17 assessors for valuing land and property improvements, critics contend that assessments are neither equitable nor uniform.
While gaming and construction boomed in the state, politicians had little appetite for serious reform. But now that Nevada leads the country in unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates, the Legislature finally acknowledged the need for action – by commissioning yet another study.
The Legislature-appointed “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” was set to receive the state’s eighth such analysis since 1959 on July 1, but the $258,000 report by Moody’s Investor Analytics was a no-show. Legislative staffers initially said the contract was being amended to reflect the delay, but no one would speculate on a new delivery deadline.
Local media and blogs suggested the postponement was engineered to provide cover to politicians running in November elections – particularly in the hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial contests. When asked about their plans for tax reform, candidates – including gubernatorial Democratic candidate and Clark County Commission Chair Rory Reid – now simply say they’re waiting to review this latest, oh-so-important study before forming their opinions, rather than actually answering constituents’ questions.
But in late July, the state declared Moody’s in default, with Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, noting the report had not been paid for, telling the Las Vegas Sun, “we don’t pay for what we don’t get.”
So, will the study arrive before the Nov. 2 election? Good luck getting an answer to that one.