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Washoe County Commissioners approve final budget



The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners approved the final Fiscal Year 2012/13 budget this morning during a public hearing in the Chambers. The annual budget is required by statute and must be filed by June 1 with the State of Nevada. The final approved County balanced budget requires no lay-offs through 6/30/13, eliminates 51 vacant Full Time Employee (FTE) positions and calls for $6.3 million in departmental operating reductions, while providing a budgeted ending fund balance that is, at 8 percent, twice what is required by statute, and no tax rate increase.

The County’s two major sources of General Fund revenue (property tax and consolidated taxes) have declined by 15 percent since FY 2007/08, which has contributed significantly to the decline in revenue used to provide services. This will further impact the number of positions that the County has to serve its citizens as the ratio of Washoe County staff to population has decreased by 27 percent since 2005. While the Consumer Price Index has increased by 12 percent since 2007, the General Fund expenditures have decreased by 9 percent, creating significant pressures on service provisions.

Washoe County Manager Katy Simon says while the impact of the cuts will be difficult, it’s important to point out that no reserve funds were used. “We reduced our target ending fund balance to help close the shortfall this year. We budgeted 8 percent of the unassigned net resources to be available at year-end to tide us over into the next year, vs. the 8.3 percent we had proposed to set aside back in February. We do not require the use of reserves to balance this budget.”

Due to the fact that labor agreements are not concluded with all of the County labor associations, Simon says departments had to plan for the worst case scenario. That means that the budget that was proposed is balanced without association wage concession which was made possible by eliminating 51 positions that were currently vacant.

Simon says, “Washoe County has reduced our staffing from 8.1 employees per thousand population in 2006, to only 5.8 employees today in response to the dramatic reduction in revenues. We do understand that being unable to fill vacancies is very hard on employees who have to take up the slack when those positions aren’t filled, and very hard on the public which must endure ongoing service impacts. We remain hopeful that we can reach conclusions on labor agreements that can free up some, if not all, of those positions to be filled so that employees have more help.” Simon continued, “Wage concessions for Management, Commissioners, and Juvenile Services employees consistent with what has been asked of other employees are budgeted in this budget and will continue through 2012/13. In addition, the Courts have also agreed to look at wage concessions once the County’s labor agreements are concluded.”

Unlike many local governments in Nevada, the County will also be transferring almost $19 million into the trust that has been established for the long-term liability for retiree health benefits. The County negotiated with its employees to end that retiree health insurance benefit for employees hired after July 1, 2010. Simon points out that there are several positive indicators in this year’s budge, including:

  • Washoe County still maintains the highest bond rating in the history of Northern Nevada, which keeps our interest rate costs down when borrowing money.
  • Washoe County has budgeted an ending fund balance that is 200 percent of what is required by statute.
  • Washoe County hopes to receive a settlement from the State for a portion of the property taxes that were diverted from County resources; $6 million over two years will go directly into funding State-authorized infrastructure projects that will also create local jobs, and $1.25 million is proposed to go toward entirely eliminating a health insurance premium increase for employees and retirees next year. The Board also gave direction that, if and when that settlement is received, they would like to consider action to allocate a portion of it towards hiring additional deputies.
  • Washoe County has fully funded the Incline Tax refunds and still maintains millions of dollars in assigned reserves for risk management, equipment replacement, health benefits and other designated purposes.
  • Washoe County will be appropriately increasing the investment in employee development and training, and will be inviting employees and private sector representatives to help us identify the highest priorities.
  • Washoe County will be supporting a “Buy Local/Think Local” initiative to help grow the local economy, which helps us grow new tax revenues in the region to fund all our operations.
  • Washoe County is forming an Economic Development Team internally to assist new/expanding businesses in navigating through the planning and permitting processes, and is increasing support to the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) by $10,000.

The County’s largest fund, the General Fund, was approved for $301.2 million in expenditures and other uses for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2012. This represents a decrease in revenue from all sources of 8 percent, some of which is an expected decrease in property tax of $2.5 million.

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