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The Washoe County budget is one step closer to becoming final for the next fiscal year (FY 12/13) after a recommended final budget was presented to the Board of County Commissioners today during the scheduled Board meeting earlier today.

Media Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy Leuenhagen
Reno, Nevada. May 15, 2012. The Washoe County budget is one step closer to becoming final for the next fiscal year (FY 12/13) after a recommended final budget was presented to the Board of County Commissioners today during the scheduled Board meeting earlier today.

Washoe County is forecasting a decrease in revenue from all sources of 8 percent, some of which is an expected decrease in property tax of $2.5 million. This will further impact the number of positions that the County has to serve its citizens. The ratio of Washoe County Staff to Population has decreased by 27 percent since FY 2005-2006. The County’s two major sources of general fund revenue (Property Tax and Consolidated Taxes) have declined by 15 percent since FY 2007 – 2008, which have contributed significantly to the decline in revenue used to provide services.

An updated summary of the recommendations was presented by Alan Rosen, Washoe County Budget Manager, which included minor changes from the recommended budget reductions presented on April 24 as a result of departmental appeals to the County Manager. There also have been no changes to the impact on Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) which are all currently vacant positions. In addition, if concessions are reached in the next year, it could reduce the impact of these reductions.

The Board supported moving forward with the County’s final budget as recommended for action on May 21, with direction to Library Director Arnie Maurins to return with specifics on staffing and a plan to avoid closure of both the Verdi and the Glen Duncan-Traner partnership libraries.

While the recommended reductions are lower than originally anticipated, the county will achieve a balanced budget as a result of lower than anticipated declines in property tax, slight reduction of fund balance, and the implementation of central services cost allocation to reflect the full cost of service for functions that are fund by separate special revenues. Statute requires a minimum ending fund balance of 4 percent, while Government Finance Officers Association guidelines recommend 16 percent. The Board’s policy calls for an 8 to 10 percent fund balance to allow for a minimum of 30 days of operating capital and the recommended fund balance meets that requirement.

Staff was also asked to bring back implementation of a statutorily approved fee on recorded documents to support the provision of legal representation of children in Family Court proceedings through a contract with Washoe Legal Services, and direction to review the revenues collected by those fees, and make adjustments in that budget if needed during the coming year.

In providing direction, Commissioner Breternitz reaffirmed his position that the County's budgets must be sustainable, and expressed his concern that reductions to fund balances, reductions in full funding of transfers for long term liabilities such as the retiree health benefits reserve, and reductions to capital investment cannot be sustained for the long term; he also restated his desire for shared sacrifices.

Commissioner Breternitz said, “We need to share in the responsibility to take cuts based on revenue; making up a deficit using elements that are unsustainable into the future is not good business practice. We continue to stress the need for broad allocation for taking up the responsibility for making up the deficit.”

The recommended final budget for Washoe County supports the Board's goal of financial sustainability in the following ways:
  • No tax increases, and living within expected revenues
  • Providing a sustainable level of support to the public's highest priorities as reported in the County's online budget survey, with Public Safety maintained as the highest priority in the General Fund budget
  • Keeping people employed by reducing only vacant positions (51 total FTE’s)
  • Increasing actual expenditures in capital and infrastructure
  • A budgeted ending fund balance that is, at 8 percent, twice what is required by statute
  • $6.8 million in sustainable charges to funds supported by separate revenues to cover the full cost of those services, which includes indirect administrative costs
  • Budgeting a transfer of $6+ million to the long-term liability for retiree health benefits
  • Increased funding to EDAWN by $10,000 in furtherance of the Board's Strategic Plan priority to support regional economic development

The $6.3 million in budgeted operating reductions to departments will continue to present challenges in meeting the service expectations of citizens. Services such as Public Guardian, Public Administrator, District Health programs, code enforcement, road and street maintenance, libraries, courts, and virtually every department will experience further delays in response, resulting from an additional 2 percent cut in the County's workforce, on top of the 27 percent reduction that has already occurred since 2006.

County Manager Katy Simon reiterated that the County is still negotiating with labor unions regarding wage and benefit concessions and reminded the community that labor agreements cannot be imposed but that staff is still working with nine labor unions in ongoing negotiations. With the conclusion of negotiations or impact processes, the further reduction in the County’s workforce may not be necessary.

Citizen Survey Results

Commissioners were also updated on the results of a citizen budget survey that was available on the County website from April 23 to May 8. There were a total of 583 responses to the survey and respondents were asked to allocate funds to 15 different County services. Administrative functions were not included, as they are not services provided directly to citizens; direct public services were included in this survey regardless of funding source. The survey, while not statistically valid, does indicate that the FY 12/13 recommended budget is very similar to the preference of the average respondent.

Survey results show 58 percent in favor of extra funding as a result of a slight increase in taxes. While respondents provided this additional funding to all service areas, the largest average allocation were given to:
  • Public safety
  • Senior services
  • Public health

The next step in the budget process will be Monday, May 21 when the final budget decisions will be made to the Washoe County Commission at a public budget hearing beginning at 8:30am in the County Chambers.