Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2015

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Debate simmers over law requiring publication of property assessment roll


Conor Shine

The Clark County property assessment roll is expensive for the government to produce each year.

The Clark County property assessment roll — a thick, four-section packet that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish — hit the driveways and doorsteps of Las Vegas Valley newspaper subscribers in late December.

The roll is an epic collection of public information, listing the assessed value of all 728,000 parcels of land in the county. Each copy weighs 4.5 pounds and is published on several hundred pages of newsprint. But whether there will be an edition next year is the subject of debate.

The roll is available year-round online, but the county is required by state law to publish a hard copy every year. This year, the cost was about $580,000.

The roll and other public notices are one form of government transparency codified into the Nevada Revised Statutes, but Assemblyman Paul Aizley says the availability of the information online makes it a waste of public money to print the assessment roll.

“Right now, we could use that money other places,” said Aizley, who represents a district covering parts of Henderson and the Enterprise township. The assessment roll “is on the web. It’s accessible. There’s no reason why we need to do it in the newspaper."

Aizley has introduced a bill and an amendment in the past two legislative sessions allowing municipalities to post the rolls only on their websites, but both measures have failed — often amid concerns that residents in rural counties with less reliable access to the Internet would suffer from the change.

Aizley said he intended to introduce another bill in the upcoming session that would exempt only large counties — specifically Clark and Washoe counties — from having to distribute printed copies of the roll.

“Spending money for some reason that you don’t need to spend it on is wasting money,” he said.

The Clark County assessment role was distributed to the more than 100,000 Las Vegas Review-Journal subscribers during the last week of 2012, assessor Michele Shafe said.

“The purpose of the assessment roll and having that available to the public is so property owners can compare their properties to other similar properties,” she said. “Especially in residential neighborhoods, they can compare the value of their house to their neighbor’s house and make sure they’re being treated equitably.”

Shafe said the county has posted the roll on its website for at least the past 16 years. She said the online system is often easier for people to use than the printed copy.

Although the costs may be steep, publishing the assessment role and other public notices in print are an important way of monitoring and verifying the work of the government, said Barry Smith, Nevada Press Association executive director.

“Public notices are in the law because they have to do with actions by government that are so important that the law says the public needs to be notified. Not that they’re just made available, all records are available to the public if you want to go look them up … but that there needs to be some positive action to get it out in front of people so they know what’s going on,” he said.

Publishing the assessment roll through a third party forces the government to be accountable, he said.

“The role traditionally held by newspapers is of a third party involved in the publication so it’s not just government accountable to itself,” he said. “With printed public notices, there’s an affidavit of publication. It’s there in perpetuity so there’s a hard copy there to refer to, to show that, yes, this notice was published and out in front of the public.”

Smith said he supported posting public notices online and thought there were more cost effective ways of delivering the assessment role in large counties. But, he said, if the information is posted online only, governments need to find ways to secure the data, make their websites easier to navigate and find new ways of notifying the public where the information can be accessed.

“You can look something up (online) the same way you can go down to city hall to look it up. That’s not the same thing as notifying,” he said. “Publishing it is a cost, but it’s the cost of government accountability and transparency.”

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  1. It's about time. I've long thought this is a stupid waste of taxpayer money. As soon as I get the info, I dump it into the recycle bin and I'll bet lots of others do the same thing. The solution? Print a notice in the newspapers that a hard copy is available for those who want them, have them contact the department responsible and make a reservation, say, two or three months in advance, then tally up the requests and publish that many plus a few more, just in case. I'll bet, even if the county hand-delivered them to the ones that actually want them, it would cost far less. The rest of us could look the info up online. $580,000 isn't chicken feed. It's real money! Come on man, we aren't in the horse and buggy age anymore.

  2. So what Barry Smith, Nevada Press Association executive director is saying that the only ones he really cares about are those willing to pay for the RJ. I don't pay for it and I am a property owner and citizen of this state so they should be printing a copy for me and putting it in my driveway also. I should not have to pay for a newspaper I don't want to receive my copy.

    Honestly, printing it is a waste in todays world. Anything I want I can find on line in seconds. Stop wasting my money and killing more trees so someone can live in the past with printed material. Anyone that thinks this must be in print is the same ones that think the post office should be working on Saturdays.

  3. There are huge privacy concerns here. Stop it. Develop a system to allow one to go to the courthouse if need be and review redacted info.

  4. Nevada's exclusive replacement cost property tax system is unconstitutional and is the last state in the U.S.A. with such a system. It really does not matter what numbers are printed on the card the county sends to you or the county assessment rolls as the numbers have little to do with how your tax bill is calculated.

    A good friend and I have dissected Nevada property tax system using algorithms to come up with the numbers that are actually used to arrive at your tax assessment. If fact my friend Dehnert Queen during the NV State Board of Equalization hearings to hear complaints regarding NV Property tax system in testimony in Carson City November 5, 2012 challenged any Nevada assessor to show exactly how they arrive at your tax bill with a pencil and paper.

    To date there have be no offers by any Nevada County Assessor/NV Tax Commission/NV State Board of Equalization official to do so as to do so would reveal how your property value is artificially inflated and over valued as soon as you acquire your property to get to the numbers used to calculate and arrive at your property tax bill.

    There are numerous cases pending before NV Supreme Court over the legality and methods used by NV State Tax Commission and NV State Board of Equalization to calculate your property tax bill. NV Supreme court is trying to figure out how to save face and the unconstitutional system without Nevada having to pay millions of dollars of over charges to the Incline Village group and others by-cause of fraudulent methods and over charging.

  5. Since 2009 @ Esmeralda County Board of Equalization hearing's every February I have placed into the record evidence of fraud, over-charging and unlawful methodologies as well as pointing out that the Board failed the correct membership as required in NRS 361.340 and refusing to swear anyone-in including county board of equalization members and the assessor?

    Since 2010 Esmeralda County Board of Equalization and NV State Board of Equalization hearing I have proposed and included a Simple Fee Property Tax System with my tax petitions to replace Nevada's unconstitutional property tax nightmare. The proposed Simple Fee Property Tax System meets all constitutional requirements as well as the 7 Nevada Supreme Court rulings against the current "Replacement Cost Property Tax System" in Nevada.

    At hearing's regarding complaints for the Nevada property tax system held in Sept. and Nov. 2012 in Carson City our Simple Fee Property Tax System was again proposed to the State Board of Equalization for the hearing that the NV Supreme Court mandated to hear complaints.

    A test system could be setup and tried in Esmeralda County before going statewide.

    Nevada's Supreme Court could order the simple fee system to replace the unconstitutional system now in place. What are they waiting for....