By SANDRA CHEREBCARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) â¿¿ A state board Wednesday recommended keeping the unemployment tax rate paid by Nevada employers essentially unchanged for 2014 after weighing different scenarios for climbing out of a debt hole brought on by record joblessness during the recession. The Employment Security Council endorsed keeping an average rate of 2.25 percent â¿¿ if the state doesn't issue bonds to pay off $520 million still owed to the U.S. Department of Labor to meet jobless claims during the recession. If bonds are issued, the rate would be lowered to 2.1 percent because employers will still be assessed a fee to cover debt service, projected at 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent. Either way, the average annual tax paid by employers, per employee, would stay roughly the same as it is now. Tax rates vary based on a company's employment stability, and there are 18 different rate tiers. The 2014 state unemployment insurance rate paid by businesses will be based on an employee's annual wage base of $27,400, up from $26,900 in 2013. Renee Olson, administrator of the Employment Security Division, said paying off the debt with bonds would save businesses from having to pay interest on that debt and other levies imposed by the federal government. It would also give Nevada a clean slate should the state be forced to borrow more money in another recession. This year interest on the debt totaled $16.5 million. Nevada's debt to the federal treasury reached $846 million in April 2012. As Nevada's economy slowly improved, that obligation has been whittled down to $520 million. Olson said keeping the unemployment tax rate steady and paying off the debt could help put Nevada's unemployment trust fund back in the black, with a $190 million projected surplus by the end of next year.
The state projects jobless benefits will cost $427 million in 2014.The bond idea was passed by the 2013 Nevada Legislature as a way to wipe out the debt to the federal government that began accruing in 2009 when the state's unemployment trust fund, once considered healthy with $800 million, ran dry, victimized by record joblessness and an economy that imploded. The state Board of Finance and Legislative Commission each are scheduled to consider the bond proposal Thursday. If authorized, Olson said she would consider the status and direction of the bond market before proceeding with a sale.