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November 28, 2014

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Bill would divert some water, sewer funds to provide a little relief in North Las Vegas

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, plans to introduce a bill that would give the North Las Vegas financial relief.

She said her bill would allow the city to access an indeterminate amount of money currently locked in its water and sewer funds. City residents pay into the funds via their water and sewer bills, and the city usually spends that money on municipal water and sewer projects.

But Kirkpatrick said the city’s dire financial situation justifies using some of that money to pay for other city services.

“I am willing to allow them to use a portion of the monies to restore services within North Las Vegas,” she said. “That means opening the parks and libraries on a regular basis so that people can use those things. Summer is coming. A lot of kids are going to be home, and I think they should be able to use them.”

City spokesman Tim Bedwell said North Las Vegas officials are coming up short when it comes to paying for city services during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The city faces an $18 million deficit.

Kirkpatrick said her bill would let the city use the water and sewer money only to pay for specific services, including police, fire, recreation, and library services.

City representatives would also like to find more money to pay for things such as opening Craig Ranch Regional Park. The city doesn’t have the money to pay for maintenance at the park.

“We have the same goals, and that’s maintaining services and restoring services where possible,” Bedwell said.

The city withdraws up to $32 million per year from its sewer and water funds, which are together worth about $300 million, according to the city’s 2012 comprehensive annual financial report

Kirkpatrick has often had a contentious relationship with local governments, including North Las Vegas. She sparred with North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck early this legislative session.

Buck had wanted more money from Kirkpatrick, who sponsored and successfully passed a major overhaul of how local government tax dollars are distributed from the state.

In future years, North Las Vegas will get an extra $3 million per year in the new formula, Kirkpatrick said.

Her bill would let cities access a limited amount of water and sewer funds for use outside of water and sewer projects. Although the bill hasn’t been drafted yet, she indicated that it may be a temporary authority to access that money.

She said tapping those funds would require city council approval and the state committee on local government finance.

“This is just something to try to help them out of the situation they’re in,” she said.

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