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Half-cent sales tax hike takes effect

Consumers may notice a slight increase in the cost of their purchases after April 1 and it’s no April Fool’s joke — the county’s half-cent sales tax increase has gone into effect, boosting the tax from 7.1 percent to 7.6 percent.

Half of the money is earmarked for the sheriff’s office, half for the rural fire departments. Nye County voters passed the sales tax increase in November 2006 by 18 votes. The wording states one-quarter of 1 percent will be used to support fire departments and one-quarter of 1 percent to support police services for the purpose of hiring and equipping more public safety and support personnel, improving and equipping existing public safety facilities and constructing and equipping new public safety facilities where needed.

The Nevada Legislature followed up by approving Assembly Bill 461 in the 2007 session authorizing Nye County to increase the tax. But after that it became tangled up in local politics. Commissioners in December 2007 voted 3-2 not to increase the tax, which led to charges against former Commissioner Peter Liakopoulos that he wouldn’t support the tax if his wife wasn’t named curator of the veterans memorial museum.

County commissioners brought up the matter again last year. The first time it was tabled for lack of a spending plan. On Aug. 20 commissioners again rejected the sales tax increase by a 3-2 vote. But Oct. 1, Commissioner Butch Borasky switched his no vote to a yes and it passed 3-2. Commissioners Frank Carbone and Donna Cox voted against it.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said he pledged to support a vote of the people.

Bill 2013-11 allows the county to impose the sales tax increase to recruit, employ and equip additional firefighters, deputy sheriffs and other public safety personnel and construct, improve and equip public safety facilities.

The county estimates each quarter-cent increase will generate $1.22 million. Of the $1.22 million available for fire departments, Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services will collect $1.02 million, as it contains 83.25 percent of the county population in the 2010 census. The adjusted sales tax should raise another $2.45 million, but $43,586 goes to the state for collection of the tax.

Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck said the town’s plan will allow them to fill three firefighter positions and buy some equipment. Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall said how many deputies they can hire will depend on whether county commissioners accept the sheriff’s plan.

“We hope they accept it and it will give us more personnel for the jails and the streets to protect the public and protect our inmates,” Marshall said.

The Nevada Department of Taxation won’t remit the additional money to the county until the end of June. The 2,368 businesses on the sales tax rolls in the county have until the end of May to submit their monthly reports for April sales.

The bill passed Oct. 1, but the taxation department had to reprogram computers with the new tax rate and an amended, inter-local agreement allowing the state to collect the tax and redistribute it to the county had to be signed by the Nevada attorney general and the director of the state Department of Taxation. It wouldn’t go into effect until the next fiscal quarter. The increase was posted on the Internet as an alternative to notifying each individual business.

Nye County’s rate of 7.6 percent is still a half-cent less than Clark County, where consumers pay an 8.1 percent sales tax. Washoe and White Pine counties have a sales tax of 7.725 percent. Nye County’s is now equal to the 7.6 percent charged in Churchill and Storey County but higher than all other Nevada counties. Previously, Nye County was equal with Lincoln, Pershing, Lyon, Douglas and Lander counties which all levy a 7.1 percent sales tax. Humboldt, Elko, Eureka, Esmeralda and Mineral counties charge a 6.85 percent sales tax. Carson City charges 7.475 percent.

Tom Saitta, co-owner of Saitta Trudeau Chrysler Jeep Dodge, said they advertised the increase in newspaper advertisements. He didn’t think it would adversely affect his business now that it’s in effect.

“It really won’t. What it did, it encouraged people that were planning to purchase, buy a little sooner. As far as hurting sales it really won’t,” Saitta said. In referring to Clark County, he said, “We lost a big advantage we had because a 1 percent difference on any expensive thing like a vehicle is $400 or $500 sales tax.”

“It hurt the town of Pahrump regarding marketing a little bit because we’re not as advantageous as we were,” Saitta said.

Ron Frazier, owner of Frazier Furniture, didn’t see a big impact on sales either.

“I don’t see it affecting it much, even on a big ticket item, it’s not going to amount to that much,” he said.

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