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Fire board eyes thin slice of pay-as-you-go tax money
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Fire board eyes thin slice of pay-as-you-go tax money

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Metropolis wildfire

An Elko County Fire Protection District firefighter sprays water on the remnants of a wildfire near Metropolis on March 4, 2021.

ELKO – Elko County Board of Fire Commissioners will be looking at using a small portion of the freed-up pay-as-you-go tax for the Elko County Fire Protection District.

The proposed tax hike for the fire district would be 3.25 cents, to 29.25 cents from the current 26 cents, This would come out of the 75 cents that is available because of voter rejection last November of a request to renew the pay-as-you-go tax for the Elko County School District.

County Manager Amanda Osborne said the current property tax rate of 26 cents for the fire district “will likely not be enough to cover future increases” in Wildland Fire Protection Plan fees the district pays each year, so the fire board will be looking at options.

“One of those options may include utilizing some of the tax rate made available as pay-as-you-go is discontinued at the end of FY22,” she said.

The fire district pays an annual fee to the Nevada Division of Forestry Wildland Fire Protection Plan, but the county and NDF have disputed the fee amount in past years. The district paid $600,000 to WWPP in the current fiscal year, according to the 2020-2021 budget.

The Elko County Fire Protection District was formed in 2015 to take over from the Nevada Division of Forestry, which had provided county fire coverage, and the 26-cent property tax was later set up to support the district.

Elko County’s property tax cap is $3.64 per $100 assessed valuation, and the county is at that cap, but the defeat of pay-as-you-go opens the way for 75 more cents out of the capped amount. Taxpayers would not see any increase because they have been paying the 75 cents.

The current pay-as-you-go tax expires June 30, 2022, so the proposal to raise the tax for the fire district would not be collected until after that date.

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Along with the county, cities in Elko County also are hoping for a share of the pay-as-you-go amount.

Elko City Council decided in March to seek 17.77 cents from the pay-as-you-go pot with plans to define where the money would be used, while acknowledging that the Elko County School District may try again to get voter approval.

The fire board — which is made up of Elko County Commissioners — will be talking about the possible tax increase and the proposed fire district budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year at its April 8 meeting.

The tentative budget for the fire district’s operating fund calls for revenues of $3.7 million, but it forecasts revenues of a little more than $4 million if the tax rate went from 26 cents to 29.25 cents. Expenditures for the operating fund are expected to be a little more than $3.71 million.

The revenue for the current fiscal year ending June 30 is estimated at $3.29 million and expenses at $3.68 million. The year began with a fund balance of $459,083.

According to the tentative budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the fire district is estimated to have a beginning fund balance of $63,892. The ending fund balance for the 2021-2022 fiscal year is estimated at $51,552 at the tax rate of 26 cents and $363,283 at 29.25 cents.

The state’s recommended 16.67% ending fund balance is $618,847, which would be $567,295 short at the current tax rate and $255,564 short with the proposed tax rate.

The tentative budget for the fire district also includes the emergency fund, which will have $1 million carried over from the current fiscal year. There was a $300,000 transfer into the emergency fund in the current fiscal year to bring the total to $1 million.

The goal was $1 million for fire emergencies.

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