Special Assessment District Coordinator: Stephen Hardesty
For more information on Special Assessments, call 775-321-8353, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Reno is on a very active program to repair the city’s streets. The Pavement Management Program has inspectors who physically walk and expect the condition of the pavement throughout the city. Last year they evaluated more than 250 miles of streets. Based on these evaluations, streets that require a complete reconstruction are identified. In conjunction with the street reconstruction, Public Works Engineers go out and evaluate the other parts of the street infrastructure such as the curbs, gutters and sidewalks. If in fact maintenance is required on curbs and gutters, then these are added to the street rehabilitation program.
The City Council created repair criteria based on factors relating to the safety of pedestrians on the sidewalks and adjacent driveway approaches. Since the property owner is responsible for the maintenance of his/her sidewalk and adjacent driveway approach, the liability is the property owner’s. The requirement of the property owner to maintain the sidewalk is spelled out in the Nevada Revised Statutes 278.02313 and the Reno Municipal Code 12.20.0005. However, once the City identifies a safety hazard and does nothing about it, the liability shifts to the City. Therefore, the City has two choices; order the property owner to do the work immediately or create a special assessment district to help defray the cost of the repairs to the property owner over a longer period of time, usually ten (10) years.
If the City Council desires to proceed with the assessment district, they direct the City Engineer to create plans and an estimate of costs to be charged to the various property owners within the project areas. Public Works Engineers then start creating the plans a drawing to do the work. They also prepare an estimate of the work to be done and present this to the Assessment District Coordinator. The Assessment District Coordinator then places estimated item costs to the work to be done and creates an estimated assessment roll. The estimated item costs are usually high enough to include design, inspection and processing fees that will be associated with the project.
The next step requires the City Council to adopt a Provisional Order Resolution indicating a determination by the City Council to go forward with the creation of the Special Assessment District and to set the date of the public hearing. The estimated assessments and plans are filed with the City Clerk the day before the Council meeting adopting the Provisional Order Resolution. After these actions by the City Council, the Assessment District Coordinator prepares the “Notice of Public Hearing” and an informational letter informing the property owner of the estimated assessment. In addition, an invitation to a “Public Meeting” with Public Works staff to discuss the assessment district and the street rehabilitation project is included. These letters are then mailed by certified mail no less than twenty (20) days prior to the Public Hearing.
The Public Hearing Notice provides a detailed explanation of how the assessment district will work. It also provides information on how to protest or object to the creation of the district or the amount of your assessment. If you are financially concerned about not being able to make payments, there is information on how to apply for an Exemption from Paying Assessment.
The Public Hearing is usually held as the first item at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. The Mayor opens the Public Hearing and verifies that all of the notices by publication, mailing and posting have been performed. A brief presentation is then made by the City Engineer describing the project. Then, the Mayor asks for anybody who submitted a protest or objection letter to speak and then anybody else desiring to speak for or against the project. The City Engineer is then asked to address the protests and objections. The Council then deliberates the information presented. Once the Council is satisfied the Mayor closes the Public Hearing. The Council deliberates some more and then votes on the resolution addressing all protests and objections; resolution directing the recordation of maximum special benefits (the estimated amount of assessment); and the ordinance creating the district. Two weeks later, the ordinance is adopted and the district is formed.
At this point, Public Works staff prepares plans and specifications and advertise for bids for the project. Usually in April or early May, work begins and takes about two to three months, depending on the size of the project. The Special Assessment District work is done in conjunction with the street rehabilitation project. Once the work is completed, as-built plans are completed and amounts and quantities are determined. The information for the assessment work is submitted to the Assessment District Coordinator and the process for closing the district begins.
Once the work has been completed and final numbers have been determined, the City Council directs the City Engineer to prepare a final assessment roll. A preliminary final assessment roll is completed by the Assessment District Coordinator. This includes calculating the Design, Inspection and Processing Fees associated with the assessment district. The final assessment cannot exceed the Maximum Special Benefit amount adopted by the City Council when the district was created. A resolution “Fixing the Time” then goes before Council which establishes the Public Hearing date to close the district. Once again, the information about the district, how to protest and file an Exemption from Assessment is included in the Public Hearing Notice.
The Assessment District Coordinator now puts the final assessment letter together and mails the letter and the Notice of Public Hearing by certified mail to the property owners. The Public Hearing procedure is exactly the same as when the district was created. The ordinance this time levies the assessment upon the property.
Assessment Management Group in Las Vegas handles all of the billings for the City of Reno. Within a few days following the closing of the district, the property owners will receive a bill for the entire amount of the assessment. This is the beginning of the thirty (30) day cash-payment period. The property owner can pay all, part, or none of this bill. If the property owner pays entire amount billed, they will have no future obligation. If they pay a portion of the bill, the interest on the principal will reflect this and the payments will be smaller. If the property owner pays nothing, the entire amount will go into the payment process. On most assessment districts for sidewalk repairs the time of the payments is calculated over ten (10) years with twenty (20) semi-annual payments. These payments are billed approximately forty-five (45) days before they are due. Payments are due on September 1st and March 1st.