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October 31, 2014

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Local Government:

NLV mayor won’t take advantage of law passed in state Legislature to fund city

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Steve Marcus

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee talks with Ryann Juden, intergovernmental affairs/chief of staff, in his office at North Las Vegas City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

A new law that was supposed to bail out cash-strapped North Las Vegas may not help the city after all.

Last year, legislators passed a law allowing North Las Vegas city officials to tap an account full of money otherwise exclusively reserved for the upkeep of municipal sewer and water systems.

State lawmakers representing the financially distressed city had said passing Assembly Bill 503 would do nothing less than save the city from bankruptcy.

“The residents want to save their city,” Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said during a hearing last year.

But North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said this week he’s not going to take the money because the law has strings attached.

City officials would have to submit to audits and gain the approval of a state committee called the Committee on Local Government Finance before they’d be allowed to withdraw millions of dollars from the water and sewer accounts and use it for other city services, including police and parks.

Lee said he doesn’t believe the city can meet the committee’s demands.

In a statement, he also said the City of North Las Vegas had misrepresented its financial situation to legislators, an assertion he also made in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Sun.

"I am not sure we even qualify for the money and believe if the city had given the Legislature all the facts, their commitment and Speaker Kirkpatrick's long record of protecting our residents would have prevented this bill from passing, despite all the safeguards she put in the bill to protect the public,” Lee said in a statement.

At the time, Kirkpatrick had said this bill was the “last chance for the constituents” to save the city from bankruptcy.

But she said this week it’s great that Lee has found he won’t have to tap into the reserves in the sewer and water accounts.

Meanwhile, the city’s finances remain a mess.

Lee asserts that the city has played deceitful financial games with its constituents in years past and plans to present a grim seven-year financial forecast at a meeting Tuesday evening.

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