Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - KNYE Radio’s Karen Jackson hosted a debate for Nye County Commission candidates Wednesday night at the Pahrump Nugget. Candidates sparred over county finances, taxes, land use, water and more.
County commission District 5 candidate Dave Caudle wants to kick the U.S. Bureau of Land Management out of Nye County.
District 4 candidate Bob Jones wants to move the county seat to Pahrump.
District 5 candidate Walt Grudzinski wants a deskside audit of every county position to determine if it’s needed.
District 5 candidate Bill Dolan said he’ll “fight tooth and nail” to keep the county’s hands off of individual wells and septic systems.
District 4 candidate Gary Bergman thinks the local Paiute tribe and local citizens should start acquiring federally managed land.
District 4 incumbent Butch Borasky said a new well owners group will file a class action lawsuit if the state engineer tries to cut back on their water use.
Those were a few of the more eye-opening comments during a county commission candidates’ forum sponsored by KNYE radio at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino Wednesday night.
District 5 candidates Bob Howard and Rick Osborne didn’t attend. But District 5 incumbent Dan Schinhofen and his opponent Bill Dolan traded barbs over tax increases.
Grudzinski, who said he handled budgets for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he read the 107-page county budget. He said the county has $2.8 million in its 2014-15 budget just listed as “miscellaneous.” Grudzinski asked why county commissioner travel expenses aren’t listed separately in the budget and accused the county of cutting $65,000 in veteran’s benefits.
“The other thing I would look at is the roads. They’re terrible. I ride a motorcycle, I ride on Manse Road in the southern part of the county, my teeth chatter every time I ride up and down that road,” Grudzinski said.
Schinhofen said the county has been able to fix roads thanks to impact fees, like Manse Road later this year, defending the fees while other candidates opposed them.
Grudzinski said 75 to 80 percent of the county budget goes for personnel and benefits.
“You have a budget of diminishing returns here. Once you get over 55 percent in personnel and benefits you’ve got a problem. Your’e 15 to 25 percent in services, I don’t know how we’re going to fix roads and build all these wonderful things that are being promised. You don’t have the money. Each year because of unions and the way the job market works inside government, they’re going to get pay raises, they’re going to get promoted,” he said.
Candidates criticized how the sheriff’s office was allowed to get $1 million over budget.
“I know there are several million dollars sitting out there in investments. We might want to pull some of that money out of investments, balance our budget, pay down some of our long term higher debt, get if off the books,” Dolan said.
Schinhofen said the county cut 50 positions and $5 million from the budget due to the economy. They reorganized departments and privatized animal control.
Referring to Dolan, who is vice-chairman of the Pahrump town board, Schinhofen said, “we haven’t had the luxury like the town did the last three years to raise their tax rate three years in a row.”
Commissioner Butch Borasky said the comptroller has been keeping county department heads informed on their budget.
“We have balanced our budget every year since I’ve been on the board,” Borasky said.
District 4 candidate Julie Hargis said government shouldn’t wait until they have a $3.5 million deficit, like the forecast this year in the first county commission budget workshop.
“One of the things that I don’t think worked was the buyouts. We bought out a lot of people and we gave them early retirements and a lot of them are back working for the county again as consultants. I don’t think that’s where we need to go again,” Hargis said.
Jones said Nye County could stop operating the Tonopah jail and turn it over to Esmeralda County to administer.
“Those positions need to be down south where we can have a properly run jail in the south, maybe rent out some beds. I think the county seat should be moved,” Jones said. A former county facilities manager, he was against an employee pay cut to balance the budget. “I still feel it’s not fair to ask 350, 400 people to make up a shortage for ad valorem taxes being 40 percent down.”
Caudle said taking over a water and sewer utility at Spring Moutnain raceway would add to the county budget shortfall. He said the county should’ve attempted to recruit gun manufacturers who were moving out of the north.
Hargis thinks the county should have a town advisory board after it takes over town government, with people appointed who are contributors to the community. Caudle thought there should be a transition team to study the town takeover.
Dolan said the town will acquire a business ripe for takeover with a $4.5 million budget.
“Yes the town raised your taxes the last several years. Since I’ve been elected to office I voted no new taxes every time, unlike a sitting commissioner, who has voted for every tax increase this last year that came down the pike and even suggested a couple of them,” Dolan said, referring to Schinhofen.
Grudzinski said the county has enough trouble running the sheriff’s department and shouldn’t take over the Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Service. Schinhofen attacked Dolan for the town fighting the November 2012 ballot question in court after voters by a narrow margin asked the Pahrump town board to revert to advisory status.
“My opponent referenced one vote I made on the sale tax. The people voted to increase the sales tax. I went with the vote of the people on that, unlike my opponent who has done nothing to stop this continual spending of your money to fight a vote that you made to discontinue the elected town board,” Schinhofen said.
Schinhofen said some things could be combined, like the town-run parks and recreation department could fall under the county buildings and grounds department.
Borasky said the town lawyer prevents him from speaking to town officials about the takeover and ways to work together.