Thursday, May 31, 2007

Retire to Michigan

It was fun visiting Vegas and seeing the glitz and glamor of all the fancy casinos, but I hated the weather. It was 98 degrees the whole time we were there, which still felt hot in spite of the low humidity. Even riding in our rental car with the air conditioner turned up full blast was uncomfortable, especially if the sky was clear and the sun was beating down, which happens nearly everyday. Cloudy skies are anomalies in the Vegas area. The TV weatherperson said Vegas only averages 22 days of appreciable rainfall a year.

Hazy skies are not an anomaly though. It was extremely hazy while we were there, and a friend of mine who lives in N. Vegas told me the haze comes from the wildfires in California. She said as long as they have wildfires, Vegas has haze. She also told me not to drink the tap water which is apparently
contaminated with cryptosporidium, a microscopic organism that can cause severe diarrhea in healthy people, and can be fatal to people with compromised immune systems. She claims the locals only drink bottled water. That alarmed me, but her advice was too late. I had already been drinking the tap water in Vegas for two days after paying $3 for bottled water my first day there. I guess the $7 dollar mango daiquiris killed the critters in the tap water because I never got sick!

I also learned a few other things about Vegas and Nevada while listening to their local news.
Nevada has topped the list in the number of home foreclosures for four consecutive months - up 224 percent from a year earlier. Renting is problematic too. One cabbie told us his rent was $450 dollars four years ago and is now $850 dollars, nearly double.

There are a large number of homeless people in Vegas too. The week we were there the F.O.E. provided haircuts, baths and dental care for nearly 4,000 (mostly Iraq war) veterans living on the streets. Las Vegas has a total of more than
14,500 homeless people. In fact, I was surprised to learn Nevada ranks second nationally and is more than double the national average in the number of homeless.

The mayor of Vegas once suggested sending homeless people to a vacant prison 30 miles out of town, and city council members recently passed an ordinance making it illegal to give food to homeless people in city parks, but, thankfully, more compassionate and level-headed lawmakers took action. They recently came up with a plan to help each homeless person who uses on average about $40,000 per year in local resources such as jail, court time and medical expenses:
Several Nevada mayors gathered here Monday to support a proposal that would funnel $20 million over two years to local governments to help eradicate homelessness.

The mayors said it makes economic sense to fund transitional housing and other services such as drug abuse counseling to get homeless people of streets.
The state government is considering ways to help the prison population (and their budget) too:
Confined by Nevada's gloomy budget projections, the Legislature is poised to revise the state prison and legal systems to undo elements of the tough-on-crime legislation of 10 years ago.

The purpose is largely to avoid embarking on an expensive prison-building campaign by slowing the growth of the prison population. That would be accomplished through lighter sentences and faster paroles.

Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Select Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation, said one pending bill could make 1,000 inmates eligible for parole immediately, and make 3,800 more inmates eligible in the next five years.
I didn't hear anything about education on television, but I did hear complaints from several locals about their schools, which they partially attribute to the fact that Nevada ranks near the bottom in the number of dollars spent on education. They also rank near the bottom in preparing students for success in school and future careers.

Finally, I couldn't mention Nevada without mentioning taxes. As you may know, Nevada has no income tax, but their sales tax is among the highest in the nation. In Las Vegas (Clark County), the sales tax is 7.75% and the gasoline tax is 23 cents (with some counties charging up to an additional 10 cents per gallon). A little searching turned up these
additional sources of revenue:
[...] Bank branch tax; car rental tax; cigarette tax; entertainment tax; gaming tax; incorporation taxes; insurance premium tax; jet fuel tax; licensing taxes; liquor tax; livestock tax; lodging taxes; mining taxes; per-employee business tax; public utility taxes; sales tax; tire tax; unemployment insurance tax; and the oh-so-unpopular vehicle registration tax.
Did I like Nevada enough to retire there? No way! I like having green trees and plants to look at out my window instead of rocks and dirt, and I even like our four seasons, including winter. Nope, I wouldn't move to Nevada, not even to avoid paying income tax. Besides, according to Prudential Nevada Realty's website, what I save in tax dollars I'd spend elsewhere:
To maintain the same standard of living, a salary of $50,000 in Grand Blanc [Michigan] should increase to $67,368 in North Las Vegas. In other words, it's 35% more expensive to live in North Las Vegas than in Grand Blanc.
Oh, and did I mention that Michigan's water is safe to drink?


abi said...

It surprises me that Las Vegas is becoming such a big retirement location. The only appeal it has is the gambling, and you've got to have a hell of a retirement nest egg to indulge in that on a regular basis.

My goal has always been to retire to Revere Beach, the city in Mass. where I grew up. Problem is, my wife won't come with me. On second thought, why exactly is that a problem? ;-)

Punditman said...

An implicit assumption: if the place that beckons retiring to-- has more problems than the place you are from--it's a no-go. Even if it doesn't have more problems (objectively speaking), but still leaves you with a real bad taste in your mouth (and possibly worse given the water report), then hell, not only should no one retire there, then no one should...never mind!
Some will trade so-called values for convenience and temperature and then turn a blind eye to the manure beneath their feet. I say nay. Forget the rocks n' dirt. Punditman agrees: stay in Michigan.

Kathy said...

Abi, you know you'd miss your wife if you moved to Revere Beach without her!!! (On the other hand, would she miss you?) ;-)

I think part of the appeal of Vegas for snowbirds is their reputation as affordable, but I can tell you that is no longer true. My friend has lived there for 12 years and she tells me Nevada is getting as expensive as California. My hubby and I aren't gamblers, but if gambling is important, then Michigan is the place to retire for sure. A new casino is being planned and will bring our total to 17. As my hubby says, the Indians are getting the money owed them a nickel at a time!

Punditman, I would have been happy to see some manure under my feet while I was in Vegas instead of miles of asphalt. On second thought, in that heat, that might not have been such a good idea!

Anonymous said...

Next to...maybe...San Diego, no metropolitan area experienced more real-estate speculation than Vegas. Hard to be there these days, I'd say.