By Selwyn Harris
The Pahrump Town Board voted unanimously to move forward with incorporating the town during their regular meeting on Tuesday.
The decision to move forward came after Pahrump Incorporation Advisory Board PIAB Chair Laurayne Murray unveiled a long-awaited report on the subject. She fielded questions from the town board.
Murray told board members that the charter for incorporation was modeled after the one used in another incorporated Nevada town.
A charter serves as a collection of laws, rules, rights, and regulations as it relates to incorporating a town.
“It was adopted from Laughlin. Based on the research and investigation that we did with many different sources, what we’ve been told is that this particular template for a charter was primarily written almost in its entirety by the legislative staff. We just modified a few things to make it applicable to Pahrump as a town,” she said.
Last week the PIAB submitted a letter of recommendation to the town board urging them to proceed with the next step of the process, which consists of forming an incorporation commission.
The commission will include community business owners; as well as legal, financial, and economic development advisors.
Representatives from local, state, and federal agencies will round out the commission, which will then pursue the work needed to present the charter to the Nevada legislature for approval.
In a letter to the town board, the PIAB stated that the charter was based on the 2011 Nevada legislature’s Senate Bill 262 and endorsed the budget from the 2010 incorporation study with some adjustments to address a $219,643 shortfall.
The letter went on to say that the charter outlined the need for a fiscal study by the committee on local government finance, which will be presented to the Legislative Committee and Nye County for review.
It outlined the process to place the charter on the ballot for residents to vote on.
Town Board Chair Vicky Parker spoke about previous budgets in years past.
“Just for the record this is the third budget that’s been created. There was one previously done three or four years ago by the Incorporation Advisory Board and we commissioned one from out of state. All three of the budgets, although they didn’t use the same numbers, showed that it was economically viable for Pahrump to support itself,” she said.
PIAB’s vice chairman, Bobby Hartman, said he supports the budget prepared by Economic and Planning Systems back in January 2010.
“The 2010 report that was commissioned by this board is the one we still recommend to go with. It has to be changed to meet the current financial situations, but that one was the most extensive and it was done by a professional group who knew what they were doing. Budgetwise I think it’s very feasible,” he said.
Former town board member Bill Dolan, who attended the meeting made his feelings known by suggesting that local residents should decide whether they want to incorporate.
“As I’ve stated in the past, it’s the voters who need to have the right to decide their future. My biggest issue with those on the town board is let the voters decide. That’s all we want, to let the voters decide. I think they took the right step last night moving toward that to allow you and I and everybody else in this valley to say yes or no,” he said.
There does seem to be a divide on public opinion when the issue of incorporation is discussed.
Previous attempts to incorporate the town of Pahrump have failed.
The first time was in 1991, when 61 percent of voters gave it a thumbs down.
In 1995, 63 percent of voters rejected incorporation. The last attempt was 12 years ago, when 60 percent of voters rejected the measure.
Dolan pointed to the population of Nye County when incorporation was explored back in 2000, when the population had nearly 25,000 residents.
“If you look at the dates of when the issues were actually on the ballot and voted on, if I’m not mistaken, I believe the last vote was in 2000, starting in early 2000, there was a massive explosion in Nye County as far as residents. Demographics have changed. When I was appointed to the board back then, the people came and said we want you guys to look at this. Again, my whole stance has been let the voters decide,” he said.
An Incorporation Feasibility Analysis IFA prepared in 2010 provides a snapshot of what an incorporated city budget would look like for Pahrump.
The report stated that revenues collected for the town in 2010 totaled $4,942,360 compared to $17,666,019 if Pahrump were incorporated. As a city, if done correctly, Pahrump could earn a much larger share of the state taxes that the city would collect each year, said Town Manager Bill Kohbarger. Today, Pahrump receives about $30 per person from the state to offset the costs of maintaining government services. As a city, Pahrump could collect between $350 and $450 per person from the state, for a difference of about $13 million a year in new revenue.
Of course, becoming a city also means additional costs. Expenditures for the town in 2010 equaled its revenues at $4,942,360, while expenditures for an imaginary incorporated city would total $17,885,652, a bit more than what the imaginary town would receive in revenues. Kohbarger was quick to point out that the difference does not mean a huge tax increase is inevitable, which many incorporation opponents cite as their reason for not supporting the idea.
One former town board member said he believes now is not the time for incorporation. Frank Maurizio noted that the town of Fernley, which was incorporated in 2001, is still enduring budget problems as a result of the action.
Fernley has a population of more than 18,000 residents.
“They have been in the red and struggling since they incorporated and that’s the same thing that’s going to happen here because we don’t have a tax base. We need industry and business here to support incorporation. I’m against it now because we don’t have the tax base. They want to kill these people here altogether. We have to get business here that will support it. That is what we have to do first,” he said.
Local business owner Julie Hargis, who is also running for the Nye County District 3 Commission seat, said she would prefer to wait until voters have to say before she makes her decision.
Hargis was on the Incorporation Advisory Board last year.
She noted that she will support whatever the voters decide.
“When I was on the board I wanted to see it go back to the people to decide. I’m not pro or con, I am for letting the people decide what happens. I’m going to stay consistent with that and I still think that’s the answer and that is the answer to a lot of things,” she said.
The town board will now move to create an incorporation commission to move forward on the matter.