Lori Bagwell, formerly a state budget eagle eye, intends to bring nickel rubbing and perhaps penny producing ways to her new city government policy role next year.
Bagwell, who takes over as Carson City’s supervisor from Ward 3 come Jan. 5, believes if you watch pennies, nickels and dimes closely city government’s dollars are going to take care of themselves. Now retired from the state and a small business person, she says she’s going to closely monitor city government’s $120 million plus annual budget, particularly the roughly half of that amount in the general fund directly affecting local taxpayers’ wallets.
Among her top priorities as she takes over from John McKenna, the incumbent supervisor she defeated in November, is the city’s “rainy day fund.” She said the technical term is “the fund to stabilize” and it’s different from the state-imposed reserve required to give a cushion in the city budget. Such “rainy day” money is needed to add stability and flexibility, Bagwell asserted.
“There’s nothing in it,” she said.
She also stressed, as she did throughout her campaign to unseat McKenna, she wants to make board decisions without negatively impacting basic services. Bagwell, co-owner with her husband of Charley’s Grilled Subs in the Carson Mall, spent upwards of a quarter century in state government. She never seems to lose sight of the fact government first and foremost must provide basic services and be wary of what she has called frills.
She enjoys recounting a tale from 25 years ago about her husband giving her two giant nickels for Christmas, telling her then she was adept at rubbing two nickels together and making them produce pennies.
Bagwell first came to Carson City at age four from California with her parents when they left the Bay area. She did her schooling here, graduating from Carson High School and Western Nevada College. Later she obtained a bachelor’s from Liberty University.
She started with the state’s Department of Taxation while in her teens. Some work there included cutting her budget eye teeth in the local government unit. She ascended in Nevada state government with budget and taxation related work in the State Budget Office, Child and Family Services, and the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety.
Bagwell finished her state career with the Department of Corrections, where her final assignment was as that agency’s deputy director.
Active in city government volunteer circles as well, Bagwell has been chairperson of the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee and vice chairperson of the consolidated municipality’s Board of Equalization. The former advises the Board of Supervisors in its capacity as Redevelopment Authority regarding economic revival decisions; the latter copes with property tax issues.
Property and sales tax matters are important in Bagwell’s pantheon of crucial issues. During her campaign, she criticized the one-eighth of a penny sales tax increase approved earlier in 2014, saying had she been on the board she would have opposed it. The revenue being raised is underpinning bonded indebtedness for a group of capital improvement projects, including a downtown remake.
Bagwell also said she worries about prospects for property taxes rising. The board controls the levy and lowered it this year from $3.56 to $3.54 per $100 in assessed value, but assessments are on the rise and many bills still are going up. Bagwell indicated she likely would oppose any hike in the rate the board controls.
Among other issues going forward, Bagwell said during an interview, are both deferred maintenance of streets and how to spend the money already earmarked for downtown capital improvements.
“I believe we’re going to have to address roads,” she said. She won’t be alone regarding that issue; other board members express concern about deferred street maintenance and how to pay for it.
Regarding the downtown phase of the various capital projects, she understands a three-member board majority supports it and so it won’t be scrapped. Her role, she said, is going to be to make certain what is spent with bonds issued for 30 years is going to buy things that provide three decades of service. For example, she said, she won’t support amenities like outside tables and umbrellas that won’t stand up to the elements for long.
In her words, she intends to put her budget hawk talents to use to determine “how we ensure the money is spent as wisely as possible.”
She favors both economic development and redevelopment, but cautions tat each turn her focus is going to be on getting the biggest bang possible for every tax dollar spent.
Among other broad Bagwell priorities is working to upgrade the city‘s website and related technological capabilities, such as online bill paying and helping automate the clerk’s office for accounting purposes.
“That’s my accounting background,” she explained. But it isn’t all about watching money, she said. She intends to promote enhancing of youth community involvement in ways that make sense to young people.
“I am going to reach out to the local youth groups,” she said, seeking input from organizations like the Girl Scouts, youth sports organizations and student governments to learn desired activities or other ways to help.
During her campaign, she also expressed support for maintaining and marketing the Brewery Arts Center, the decommissioned Nevada State Prison, the V&T Railroad, Western Nevada College, and the community’s considerable open space resources.
Bagwell has been active in nongovernmental community organizations for years. She has served as president and treasurer of FISH (Friends in Service Helping), as a board member on Carson City’s Chamber of Commerce, and is active both as a member and in officer roles with the Nevada State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.