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County adjusts service delivery strategy to achieve permanent savings



In order to achieve long-term financial sustainability within available resources, the Board of County Commissioners has voted to approve $6.9 million in budget reductions for the current fiscal year, continuing a resizing of county government that began more than four years ago.

These reductions, referred to as the Alternative Service Delivery savings, are the third part of a four-part budget plan to meet a $33.5 million structural deficit for the current fiscal year.

Two other strategies have already been completed for 2011-2012: reducing departmental operating budgets by efficiency savings of $5.7 million and using $9.75 million in reserves. The fourth and final element of the budget balancing plan entails labor savings which are currently in negotiation with the county’s nine bargaining units.

The approved reductions followed a review by the board of 10 percent reduction plans prepared by all departments to redefine what services would be provided, and how they would be provided, in keeping with the county’s financial sustainability plan.

The budget reductions acted on yesterday will result in a net loss of up to 146 positions and further reduce the operating budgets of departments by up to ten percent. A total of 86 positions were approved for voluntary separation incentives, approximately 42 eliminated positions were vacant, and up to 31 may be layoffs. Another 13 positions are being replaced or reclassed.

The reduced staffing generates more than $10 million in full-year annual savings. These reductions are on top of the county’s previous reductions of 769 positions and $154 million in operating budget reductions.

“We are dedicated to our mission of providing a safe, secure and healthy community,” stated County Commission Chairman John Breternitz, “but in these challenging economic times, we must reevaluate the way in which we provide needed services to ensure Washoe County remains financially viable into the future.”

“The adjustments we’ve approved may result in longer wait times for some services and a reduction in the types of issues to which we can respond,” continued Breternitz. “We appreciate the community’s continuing support and understanding as we work to provide the most critical services in a downsized economy.”

In the same action, commissioners also reviewed a five-year financial forecast for the county and gave staff direction in preparing the 2012-2013 budget. As approved, the policy direction given today, combined with the balanced budget plan already adopted, would achieve approximately $18.7 million in savings by the end of fiscal year 2012-2013 and set the county on a sound course for long-term financial sustainability.

Potential impacts
Here are some examples of the impact service delivery adjustments will have on citizens:

* Library. Library hours will be reduced an additional 11 hours; patrons will experience longer wait time for newly released media, increased library fines and a focus on self-service options for research and checkout. Library funding per capita will now place Washoe County’s Library system in the lowest 24 percent nationally for our population size.
* Sheriff’s Office. There are expected to be increased processing times for permits such as work permits and concealed weapon permits, and increased fees for service. Sheriff’s officers may not be able to respond to some non-emergency incidents, and there will be an increased reliance on online reporting.
* Public Guardian’s Office. Staff will be able to complete monthly visits and client assessments only about 84 percent of the time; we will increasingly rely on volunteers to help insure that 100 percent of our guardianship clients are receiving visits and being cared for appropriately.
* Assessor’s Office. Appraisers will now have an assessment load of approximately three times the national standard, affecting timeliness of appraisals and creating the potential for error.

A detailed listing of the impact of the adjustments on various departments can be found on the Washoe County website: www.washoecounty.us under the agenda for the Sept. 27 meeting.

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