The $1.8 million obtained last year from the U.S. Air Force for Lincoln County has been apportioned to some 30 different accounts, according to County Treasurer Shawn Frehner. However, she was not available to give a rundown of the accounts and amounts received.
The apportionment is in accordance with the Department of Taxation letter of Feb. 24 to District Attorney Daniel Hooge which stated, “Lincoln County now agrees with the State that the monies received represent a property tax paid.”
In a telephone interview with the Record, Hooge said the County had asked for a Declaratory Judgment about the monies from the 7th Judicial District Court in Ely.
With the ruling that the monies are taxes and not a “contract settlement,” the Treasurer was instructed to apportion $1.8 million in three equal amounts for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. The money was obtained from the Air Force with the help of Ashley Hall and Associates in Las Vegas.
Hooge explained “Initially there was some question as to whether the money was a payment in lieu of taxes, or whether is was a tax itself. The County felt it could be either one, and decided to ask the District court to determine what it was and how it should be split. The real issue was if it was determined the money was not a payment in lieu of taxes, then how should it be apportioned?”
Some on the Board of County Commissioners favored the idea of the money being a payment in lieu of taxes and others thought it was not. “But either way,” Hooge said, “we had to go to court to determine how to apportion it.”
Hooge said the Department of Taxation did not want the case to go to the district court and rule on it. “They wanted to rule on it themselves and tell the County where it should go, and made several threats, and the County in the end, decided in the end it wasn’t worth the fight.”
He explained the money was a direct payment from the Air Force for work which has been done by private contractors on Lincoln County land. Hooge said he does not view the payment as a tax assessment, “but I understand the argument from the Board of Commissioners and the Department of Taxation. There were good arguments on both sides, and in the end it probably would not have benefited either side to fight over it. So, we finally told them (Taxation Department) we don’t want a fight, so just tell us how to do it.”
Hooge also said, “After we received the money, we did create an assessment from the numbers and assessed it for those three years, as if had come from the private contractors, about $600,000 each.”
According to Hooge, the Department of Taxation would like to have someone go out to the facilities at Groom Lake in person every year, “but the Pentagon has repeatedly told them that will never happen. It’s one of those situations where federal law will always trump what state law says.”
Lincoln County will continue to annually receive between $600,000 and $700,000 from the Air Force as a “possessory use tax from independent contractors out there doing work,” he said.
Hooge said he was glad it had all been settled, and was pleased overall, “because we got a great benefit for the County.