Undercurrent

Businesses balk at SNHD’s proposed fee hike 

By: - May 3, 2022 4:10 pm
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“It’s the fees that fund us,” Chris Saxton, director of environmental health, told the SNHD board Tuesday. “We do get a few small grants. But unlike a lot of other programs in the Health District, our fees sustain us.” (Nevada Current file photo)

The Southern Nevada Health District has not increased fees for environmental health inspections and other services since 2009, leaving the agency unable to keep up with demand, including mandated annual inspections of restaurants.

Without a proposed 27% increase in environmental health fees, SNHD will come up close to $3 million short in the next two fiscal years, officials say.  

“It’s the fees that fund us,” Chris Saxton, director of environmental health, told the SNHD board Tuesday. “We do get a few small grants. But unlike a lot of other programs in the Health District, our fees sustain us.”  

Saxton says a large increase in fees is not unprecedented, noting the health district imposed a 28% hike in 2007.  

But SNHD board member Scott Nielson, who chairs the board’s fiscal committee and cast the sole vote against the proposed hike at a committee meeting Monday, says recommendations approved by the board in 2019 that align fees with the services provided were never implemented.  

“Then we came into COVID and of course, everything kind of got sidetracked,” Nielson said. 

Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said hotels are willing to pay more.

“We do, however, have equity concerns about a subset of businesses paying under a fee for service model for the cost of environmental health division functions that are beyond the scope of those operations and benefit the entire community,” she said.

She also bemoaned the lack of public discourse about the proposed hikes and SNHD’s failure to provide fee comparisons from other locales.  

Valentine noted one person who responded to SNHD’s business impact survey said she’d have to sell “over $3,000 of croissants” to offset the cost of the proposed fee increase.   

Alexandra Dazlich represents 5,600 statewide members of the Nevada Restaurant Association.  She says the pandemic caused more than 30% of restaurants to close permanently and the proposed hike in health district fees will cause “serious harm” for restauranteurs. 

“We find that the vast majority of our small independent restaurants are required to have more than one license in order to operate. And therefore this increase poses a bigger economic burden than the business impact survey suggests,” she said, adding a small restaurant that serves alcohol requires four separate licenses totalling $2,500 a year. The increase, originally proposed at 29% but reduced to 27%, would add almost $700. 

The SNHD board is expected to vote on the proposed increase later this month.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.

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