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Nye County commissioners repeal endowment fund ordinance

The future of federal funds built up by the Payment Equal to Taxes from the Yucca Mountain project is in question after officials repealed the ordinance governing the county’s special revenue funds.

In a widely-criticized move, Nye County commissioners approved rescission of the ordinance that was enacted in 2000 by the previous board of commissioners for operation of five special revenue funds that included special project, education, PILT, emergency and capital improvement endowments.

The total of the funds was approximately $19.5 million, while the revenue earned by the county was near $160,000, according to the fiscal year 2015 audit.

Nye County Comptroller Amy Fanning said for the fiscal year 2016, annual interest owed on the Nye County Detention Center bond is $1,270,621. The county also receives a $404,692 subsidy from the IRS which leaves an owed balance of $865,929.

It’s not yet clear how the money from the revenue funds are going to be spent, but officials said it could be used in the county’s general fund to offset some of the debts.

“This is the entire reason that I even went along with any conversations that we had about repealing this endowment fund,” Nye County Commission Chairperson Lorinda Wichman said.

Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton, who spoke on behalf of the Nye County students, said that they opposed repeal of the code.

“The vision of the past board of county commissioners was for the portion of the interest of the fund to go toward education of the students of Nye County School District. … Distribution of the interest for only the endowment fund would be distributed to Nye County School District for uses other than salaries and benefits,” he said.

The Nye County Dollars for Scholars scholarship program, offered to any junior or senior student who took college level courses and met the established requirements, would provide reimbursements through the education fund, Norton said.

“The program would take the number one priority in the district’s use of this fund,” he said.

In a letter addressed to Nye County commissioners, members of the Beatty Town advisory Board said they also opposed the move.

“At this time, we do not support an action that appears to remove funds that were set aside in 2000 when (Nye County Code) Chapter 3.28 was created, and we do not believe that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Beatty and Nye County to approve (Nye County) Bill 2015-13 proposing to repeal Nye County Code Chapter 3-28 to abolish the policy for use of all special revenue funds and all matters properly related thereto,” the letter said.

Rescinding the ordinance however doesn’t move the money, officials said. The endowment funds are restricted only by the ordinance, and not by NRS or federal law.

“I don’t believe that we are taking anything from the education. … I don’t know if we can pay off that debt, but we can reduce that debt and possibly in the future slow down some fleeting that’s going on in Nye County,” Wichman said.

The repeal will be effective Oct.26, officials said.

 

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