Henderson officials stress need to fix ‘crumbling infrastructure’

Residents generally don’t think about the police until they’re waiting for the police.

Drivers usually don’t think about street maintenance until they hit a pothole.

Henderson’s city leaders are asking residents to think about those things and more, and to review a report that was presented to the City Council on Tuesday.

The Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee report recommends that the city take some hard, and what could be unpopular, steps to bridge a $2 million annual operating shortfall and a $17 million annual infrastructure shortfall. The council directed the city staff to review the report and return with recommendations in the next few months.

City Manager Jacob Snow said the issues raised and recommendations made in the report concern “crumbling infrastructure.”

“That’s what a majority of the time (by the committee) was spent on,” Snow told the City Council. “It’s a $17 million capital deficit. It’s infrastructure.”

Councilman John Marz said the city has the reserves to continue to cover the operating shortfall for a few years, but the infrastructure needs will become the “elephant in the room someday.”

“In two or three years from now, if we don’t address (the infrastructure deficit) now, we could have one devastating thing happen in public works … then we’d really be in a position where we had to make drastic changes in how we do business,” Marz said.

The report did not address city staff pay, any potential cuts or union issues.

Recommendations include cutting some city services, raising some parks and recreation usage fees and reducing hours, and increasing property taxes as much as 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The city’s property tax rate of 71 cents, which is lower than Las Vegas ($1.06) and North Las Vegas ($1.16), has been unchanged since 1991.

The city can raise the property tax 3 cents this year. A larger increase would have to come from a vote of the residents due to a 2005 state law that caps annual property tax increases. Other than the vote, the state Legislature would have to remove the cap, something Hafen told the Review-Journal in November he supports.

City Chief Financial Officer Richard Derrick said the reason the City Council asked for the ad hoc committee was to find new ideas to bridge these financial gaps.

“We’re so deep in this hole now, we’re looking for options and alternatives,” Derrick said. “What are some alternatives and scenarios for the future.”

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