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County commissioners give staff direction on budget gidelines



Discussions on the Washoe County budget continued to take center stage during the County Board of Commissioners’ first meeting in February. Initial projections of sources and uses of funds that will be used to build the fiscal year 2012/13 budget were explained for policy discussion and direction. Finance Director Sheri Mendez presented several budget scenarios to the commissioners that showed the proposed recommendations to close the projected deficit of $16.8 million.

The current fiscal year budget included ongoing salary and benefit reductions of $11.6 million, along with other reductions to close a $33.5 million deficit. If negotiated wage and benefit reductions do not extend beyond June 30, the 2012/13 budget has been projected with the restoration of wage and benefits from the reductions currently in place.

Mendez says while some labor groups agreed to voluntary concessions during the year, all concessions with the exception of Juvenile Services and Management are set to expire in June unless new agreements are reached. “Our county departments need to plan for additional budget reductions in order to achieve a balanced budget within revenue projections for the next fiscal year. That projected deficit is $16.8 million.”

In order to close that deficit, the board approved a three part plan that included the following: negotiated labor savings or, failing that, department reductions of $9.9 million dollars; $3.3 million in reduction of the budgeted transfer for long-term liability for retiree health benefits; and $3.6 million in reduced capital projects and contingency funding. The board gave direction to develop two scenarios for the departmental budget reductions.

Option 1 would include across the board reductions of 4.5 percent that would be applied equally across all departments. Proportional reductions by department would maintain each department’s current proportion of the fiscal year 2011/12 budget. Option 2 would have the reduction targets applied to departments based the distribution of various labor groups within departments.

Staff further proposed, and the board approved, fully allocating all overhead costs to all funds, in follow up to a recommendation from the county’s Fundamental Review Project.

Mendez said, “We are proposing that we implement this over a 3-year period in order to protect service levels and give us greater flexibility when it comes to balancing the budget.”

The next steps will include development of the budget reduction scenarios by departments and public presentations of specific departmental budget proposals during the month of April. Final budget decisions will be made by the commission at a public hearing on May 21 in the Washoe County Chambers.

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