Washoe County Makes Big Budget Cuts; No Jobs Lost

By: by Ed Pearce, ed.pearce@kolotv.com
By: by Ed Pearce, ed.pearce@kolotv.com

RENO -- Washoe County Commissioners will be getting a tentative budget next week -- a budget that includes more than $12 million dollars in cuts, but no layoffs.

Nobody's going to lose their job, but 65 employees will be moved to other jobs. The county has been able to identify positions that most of those employees will be able to transfer to, but make no mistake -- this is a big cut, and it will be felt one way or the other by all residents.

Spanish Springs won't be getting its new library as soon as planned. The voters approved it. The county has the money to build it, but it doesn't have the money to open it.

If residents have to drive farther to another branch, they may also find themselves waiting longer with the rest of us to check out a book. There's been no cut-back in hours, but library staff will be stretched further. In fact, a longer wait is how most of us will experience this cut-back.

We'll wait longer for the neighborhood swimming pool to open. It will close earlier in the year, too. We may wait longer for road repairs, and even more worrisome, we may wait longer for a sheriff's patrol to respond to a call.

County Manager Katy Singlaub says after three years of cuts, the challenge has been to maintain services.

"We've tried very hard to balance the impacts across labor, capital, infrastructure, investment, et cetera; so that we still have a balanced budget," she says. "We still meet our statuatory mandates; we share the burden across the various parts of our system."

Things won't get easier any time soon. Current projections point to a $19 million shortfall next year. It's a trend that's likely to continue.

"Unless there's a significant change in the tax structure, and really in the fundamental relationship bertwen citizen and government -- what do citizens demand of government, and what are we obligated to provide for them? -- Until that changees, we'll continue to see these kinds of challenges in local government, state government throughout Nevada, and certainly throughout the United States," Singlaub says.

This is the third-straight year of cut-backs in local government. There's no end in sight.

The county went out of its way to ask for public input on the budget cuts before they were made. About 600 people responded to a survey, and they told the county they wanted to preserve programs in public health and safety, as well as services to children. So, planned cuts in areas like the foster grandparents program, Wittenberg Hall and the Washoe District Health Department were omitted.

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