Mineral County School Board trustee Mark Nixon and Superintendent Walt Hackford met with the commissioners on two separate occasions to discuss their budget shortfall.
Nixon explained that when the governor’s bill came forward and was signed, Mineral County School District was cut $569 per pupil. (Currently the school district is calculating that they have 464.2 pupils).
The cut cost the school district $260,000.
Nixon explained that when he acquired as to why they district was cut, he was told that the governor’s budget actually had built into it 2 percent roll ups and the PERS adjustment.
“We built our budget off this and it was flat lined last year,” Nixon said.
In trying to figure out where the increased valuation was for Mineral County, Nixon said they started going backwards and identifying it and at the time this was placed on the agenda, the best guess was Ormat.
“I’m still not sure, but you are showing $11,800,000 in new assessed value on the ad valorem side. I talked to the Assessor [Dorothy Fowler] and I asked the question, “How much is Mineral County assessed value to appraisal? She told me it is less than a million dollars.”
“Far be it from me to come in here and audit everybody,” Nixon said.
He questioned why there is such a drastic difference in the valuations to the point that there will be a shortfall not only this year, but next.
“This could cost us $500,000 to $600,000 at the school,” he said.
“The state said that Rawhide mine is up considerably,” Nixon said when trying to find an answer about net proceeds.
Tipton would pull out a document she received the week prior and showed him that Rawhide is not up in proceeds.
Chris Nepper, representing Dorothy Fowler, Assessor, would tell the commissioners and school representatives that he is unsure of what Fowler submitted to the state in her report. He would explain the process into which Ormat was found to be centrally assessed.
“As a commissioner, I’m not sure what we need to do. I’m laying it on the Assessor’s Office. What do we have to do to make this right?” Tipton asked.
Christine Hoferer, Mineral County Recorder-Auditor, would address the commissioners, “Our assessed value went from $99,000,000 to $114,000,000. That has to be identified. If in fact it is a mistake, it’s never happened since I was in this chair, and I don’t know the steps on how to fix it. I would think it would be between the Assessor and the Department of Taxation, whether they are going to issue revise projections, or what?”
Hoferer would explain that not only is this issue going to hurt the school district, but the County General Fund will be affected $300,000.
“This issue is going to have to come from the Assessor’s Office. We need your office to come back and tell us if there is an error or not,” Tipton would advise Nepper.
“How do we get the money from the state to pay for the $11 million dollars? That is the question,” Cichowlaz would tell Nixon.
Nepper and Nixon came back in front of the board and both felt that when the performer report was ran and submitted on March 9. The exemptions came in an email from the state on March 10, therefore not included in the assessor report.
The question was asked if a new performer report could be ran.
George weighed in on the question and said once ran – that report would need to be resubmitted to the state. The state could or could not accept the resubmitted report.
Coming back in front of the board on June 25, Nixon feels that they may have to protest to the tax commission about the abatement and he has already began the process of getting onto the tax commission agenda on behalf of the school district.
He informed the commissioners that the county will always have a short-fall on their budget too, due to the issue with Ormat.
George questioned that if Ormat is not on the assessor’s report then it should not be transferring over to the performer report.
Nixon explained that the numbers are coming from a state level. He also explained that he would like to sit down with Rowe and go over some ideas to get the issue resolved.
Tipton said, “Bless their hearts. I knew this was going to happen when they took away the sales tax. I didn’t know how it was going to affect the school district, but I know now.”
Nixon said, “We need to develop strategy with Mineral County with policies and ordinances then we can deal with it, but I need to talk to Sean [Rowe] before.”
Hoferer told the commissioners that the numbers they were given last week [from Mitchell] is affecting Mineral County a half a million dollars.
Nixon explained that the hit the school district has taken is roughly $470,000. Next year will be more.
Superintendent said that is six teachers in our district.
MacBeth wonders why there aren’t statutes in place and why hasn’t this been addressed before.
Tipton explained that the reason why the Ormat Wild Rose facility is centrally assessed is because the power generated is sold directly to Los Angeles Division of Water and Power.
MacBeth said, “I don’t understand. Why are we being subjected to minus [inaudible] when it’s already fixed somewhere within the state and other county to get their net proceed.”
Nixon explained to MacBeth, “Paul, we are kind of unique in the way that this is being centrally assessed. We got hit hard but it’s not unique to Mineral County either. There are other central assessments that have slipped through because of the hole in the law.”
MacBeth questioned, “So what do we need to do as a county?”
Right now the question stands. What does the county need to do?