Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday accepted a tentative budget for the next fiscal year that includes expanded public safety and library services, along with a new homelessness fund.
The total recommended 2022 fiscal year budget appropriations are $829 million, with general fund appropriations totaling $435 million. Included is a one-time use fund balance of $34.5 million that will support legally-obligated property tax settlement payments anticipated in the next year.
About $16 million of current and expanded regional homelessness expenses are included in the new homelessness fund. This equates to $5.6 million for staffing and more than $10 million for operating expenses. At least half of the money is being transferred from the county’s indigent and marijuana funds.
The fund will support a variety of programs that include the Sheriff’s Homelessness Initiative, the shelter and safe camp program at the Nevada Cares Campus, and the continuation of Crossroads, Our Place, and other programs.
Eight new library positions are planned, along with four new public safety positions for the medical examiner and sheriff’s crime lab.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Washoe County enacted cost-containment strategies and better-than-expected revenues meant the impact was not as great as anticipated, county officials said.
Since the county is positioned to start the next fiscal year in a stable financial position, officials said this will enable expansion of services.
“We really addressed some of the issues we’ve been hearing about with libraries for years,” Commissioner Alexis Hill said. “Expanding services for all the libraries in all the districts is a very exciting move and I think this commission is being very bold and showing we really care about that community service, as well as our homeless service and other community services we’re concentrating on.”
The general fund’s total unassigned fund balance, which refers to the difference between a fund’s assets and liabilities, is budgeted at $72.6 million, or 16.7% of budgeted expenses and transfers out. This equates to about 44 days of operating expenses. The county’s policy is to keep the unassigned fund balance between 10% and 17%.
“Our revenues don’t come in equally each month, so we do need to maintain enough cash to pay the bills in those months when property taxes aren’t coming in,” Assistant County Manager Christine Vuletich said.
A second public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 18. If necessary, a third budget hearing may be scheduled for May 25. Washoe County is also monitoring the Nevada legislative session, which is scheduled to end on May 31 and could have impacts on local budgets.
Some commissioners noted they weren’t happy with some aspects of the county’s budget and are already looking to next year.
Commission Chairman Bob Lucey pointed out that only $6.5 million for parks was allotted in the budget and said parks should be given larger priority next year. Hill agreed, noting that spending time outdoors is key to reducing transmission of the coronavirus.
Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said his district, which includes Sparks and Spanish Springs, was ignored. Commissioner Kitty Jung said natural disasters can mean disproportionate spending in different districts. She noted the county spent millions in District 5 north of Reno because eight homes flooded. Jung also requested a report on budget allocations by district the past few years.
Municipal budgets are due to the Nevada Department of Taxation by June 1. The 2022 fiscal year starts July 1.
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.