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Preliminary budget recommendations presented to Washoe County commissioners



During the regularly scheduled Washoe County Commission meeting earlier today, commissioners received a report on the county manager’s preliminary budget recommendations for fiscal year 2012/13. A summary of the recommendations was presented by Alan Rosen, Washoe County budget manager, and included financial and economic trends, sources and uses for the upcoming budget, and overall impact of possible budget reductions. 

Washoe County is faced with providing the same services next year with a reduction in revenues and other funding sources of approximately 8 percent from the current fiscal year. The presentation to the board highlighted policies and recommendations that will provide the necessary funding for next year’s budget with as little impact to citizens and employees as possible.

One of the trends Rosen included in his presentation showed that since 2007 the number of county staff available to provide services to the public has declined by 21 percent; however, during that same time frame the Washoe County population has increased by nearly 4 percent.

County Manager Katy Simon says one of the main goals in solving the budget deficit is to keep people working and to maintain core service levels within the Board’s long-term financial sustainability policies. “Our staffing is already about 40 percent below that of governments serving our population size nationwide, so we have proposed eliminating funding for 51 current vacancies instead of further lay-offs. However, even eliminating vacancies compromises critical service levels, and puts further strain on our current staff. Our tax rate remains unchanged since 2004, and expenditures are now more than 20% below what they were in 2007. Our employees have contributed more than $20 million in wage and benefit concessions during this recession. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Key assumptions in the manager’s recommended budget:

  • Overall 2012-2013 General Fund Budget of $299 million, down from $326 million in 2011-2012, which included $18.4 million in expenditures for property tax refunds to Incline taxpayers, pursuant to a court order.
  • The county’s tax rate will remain unchanged at $1.3917.
  • Property tax revenues will decline by another 2.5%.
  • Consolidated taxes, primarily sales taxes, will increase by 1%.
  • $3.4 million in unassigned ending fund balance will be used to balance the budget, but a budgeted ending fund balance of $21.8 million, or 8%, will be preserved, which complies with board policy of preserving 8-10% in unassigned ending fund balance.
  • $6.8 million in resources will come from allocating the county’s actual administrative service costs (about 11% overall) to special purpose funds and grants, where allowable.
  • $6.7 million in departmental operating reductions are recommended, which includes the elimination of funding for 51 positions, all of which are currently vacant.
  • Continuation of the board’s highest priorities being public safety, criminal justice and social “safety net” services.
  • Recognition that cuts to some functions, such as the public guardian, public defender, public administrator and treasurer would only lead to cost increases to cover statutorily mandated duties, so no cuts were proposed in those functions.
  • Recommended departmental reductions range from 0 to 4.5%.

“While we have minimized the impacts as much as possible, we recognize that these cuts will affect the lives of 417,000 residents and millions of visitors for years to come, and we hope that the recommendations demonstrate our commitment to good stewardship of the public’s money,” said Simon. “Citizens can expect somewhat longer wait times for service, closed service desks, continued decline of roads and infrastructure, but a determination to continue to implement innovative service solutions throughout the county.”

The Finance Department will present the budget to the Board of Commissioners again on May 15 to include possible changes due to possible recommendations from the county commission and county manager, and any changes in financial forecasts.

The final decisions about what reductions will be reflected in the Final Adopted 2012/13 Budget will be made by the county commission at the public hearing on May 21 at 8:30 am in the chambers. Until then, no recommendations are final.

The public is being asked to provide input through a Washoe County Budget Survey which is available now through May 8 on the county website and can be found at http://www.washoecounty.us/index/surveys.html.

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