Initially, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners balked when they were informed they had to pay three special assessments fees mandated by the state Department of Taxation for certain water rights for the fiscal year 2018-19 amounting to $51,358.50.
The board voted 3-2 at the time to simply say “No.”
Commissioner Varlin Higbee stated at the time that he thought it was really a tax and the county might really be subsidizing the water users. “That’s the way it looked on paper.”
At the commission meeting January 5, board chairman Paul Donohue reported that the concerns the board had about how the money was being paid were resolved, and the county was not subsidizing the groundwater basin and tributaries. Commissioners then voted unanimously to pay the mandated fees.
“Those people have already paid their water taxes into the county,” Higbee said, “and we are not subsidizing them as I first thought we might be. After looking into this matter more carefully and checking with the county assessor, we are not subsidizing them. He told me the funding is actually paid by the water users themselves. They pay it to the county, and the county pulls it out and pays it to the state.”
The assessed fees for the 2018-19 fiscal year were $4,523.98 for the Penoyer Valley Groundwater Basin, $22,105.97 for Pahranagat Lake and its tributaries, and $24,728.55 for Pahranagat Lake and its tributaries/Ash Springs.
Commissioner Kevin Phillips said it was a matter where Lincoln County had at first considered making a protest “like taking a knee.”
District Attorney Daniel Hooge had said earlier that if the county really did refuse to pay, “they probably were looking at getting into a whole lot of trouble and would likely be forced to eventually pay it anyway.”