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County Commission takes action on several budget reduction items



At yesterday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, county commissioners took action on several items designed to help Washoe County meet its current fiscal challenges.

The county has reduced its budget by $154 million over the past four years, resulting in a 20 percent workforce reduction, but still needs to identify and achieve savings for 2011-12 through negotiated employee wage and benefit concessions of $11.6 million and $5 million of permanent savings.

Justice court savings
The board acknowledged the recent action taken by the Reno and Sparks justice ccurts to meet their requested 7 percent labor costs reductions consistent with other employee reductions either taken or currently being negotiated.

Both courts will reduce their work schedules to four days per week for all non-holiday weeks. Reno Justice Court will open to the public at 8 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday; it will close at 5 p.m. every day. Sparks Justice Court will be open Tuesday through Friday. Both courts will be open to the general public from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hours of operation change is expected to save approximately $308,000.

Employee early separation and severance programs
In response to continuing fiscal problems faced by the county, the commission had directed that eligible employees be offered both a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program and Severance Benefits Program. Today, the board officially approved the implementation of both programs.

The purpose of the VSIP is to generate long-term personnel cost savings by giving eligible employees an incentive to leave the organization. Since nearly 65 percent of the county’s on-going expense is employee cost, this is obviously the most critical area where significant long-term savings can be achieved. When incentives were offered two years ago, $10 million in payouts were issued, but $30 million in long-term savings was achieved.

The county estimates the current incentive program will yield in excess of $5 million in long-term, sustainable savings. Incentives will be limited to applications for which positions will be eliminated to produce roughly three times savings.

Fundamental review project
This comprehensive review process provided an independent assessment of all county operations, programs and services and identified long-term opportunities to eliminate, modify or streamline operations to achieve cost savings. The process has now been completed, and the final report was presented to the County Commission by Management Partners, a national consulting firm with extensive expertise in local government operations.

The final report identified about $30 million in savings and revenue generation through 64 individual recommendations. However, the consultants have acknowledged that Washoe County has been very efficient in its efforts during the past several years to capture savings from actions they normally recommend that local governments undertake. Therefore, many of the consultants’ recommendations are more difficult to implement and require actions by other governments, other elected officials, or other entities such as labor associations, and should be considered as opportunities for long-term savings rather than quick wins.

The County Commission accepted the plan and asked staff to return with a proposed implementation plan.

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