The planned agenda item to discuss the question of gas tax proceeds to the City of Caliente was tabled at the Oct. 7 meeting of the Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners, at the request of Caliente City Mayor Stana Hurlburt who said she and her council members were not ready yet to discuss the matter.
But there was considerable discussion following, about the question without any action being taken.
County Treasurer Shawn Frehner said earlier this year she found that the gas tax proceeds for the City were being done incorrectly.
She noted that on the monthly reports of tax monies received, it is noted that the state pays the City of Caliente directly for the distribution of this money, the same as all the other cities that receive monthly payments, whatever their portion is.
Frehner said her investigation found that prior to 2002, the state sent all the money to each County, and the County then apportioned the money out. In 2002, the decision was made at the state level to separate the payments, give the portion that was due to the County, and the amount due to the cities.
But no record has been found that the change was to take place, so Lincoln County continued to pay the City of Caliente their monthly apportionment, until Frehner found the error this past spring and the County stopped making the payments.
Calculated through June 2013, she said the County would have paid $44,581.52, had the payments continued to have been made.
District Attorney Daniel Hooge’s office said the money can be paid to Caliente, “it just cannot come out of the road department money. It can come from ad velorum, federal-in-lieu funds, even the $2.35 tax.”
A formula exists in the Nevada Motor Vehicle Public Safety Department as to how much money from gas tax funds each city in Nevada is to receive in about four categories.
Commissioners decided during budget meetings earlier this year, the money can be paid to Caliente, but a long-term analysis and plan has yet to be found as to how to keep it from going first to road department funds where it cannot be removed, by state law, for other uses.
One of the categories from which the gas tax money is generated is the $2.35 tax, and no plans have been determined yet as to whether or not the $2.35 tax monies could, instead of all being placed in the road department account, be separated out into a separate fund for other capital improvement uses.
Hooge thinks the money can be redirected, but County Accountant Dan McArthur had mentioned earlier he is not sure if that can happen.
Commissioner Paul Mathews said he remembers talking about how, starting in 2014, an idea had been put forth to split up among the various towns in the county, through road tax funds, and not all going only to Caliente. “In future years, our idea was to go from different town to different town, and let those town boards decide how to use the money for road improvements,” he said.
Commissioner Phillips said he agreed with the thought of Commissioner Katschke to have the money “set aside so it just doesn’t get looped into something else, but focus for a certain part of the road department for capital improvements.”
Hooge said he will talk with Dan McArthur and see what action, if any, can be taken. “We have talked about it, we just haven’t finished it,” he said
Hooge noted Nevada Revised Statutes regarding the $2.35 tax is quite open and does not specifically state where money can or cannot be used.