Building Downturn Forces Washoe County Layoffs

Washoe County Manager Katy Singlaub announced today the reduction of 12 positions in the Building and Safety Department. This downsizing is needed to account for the sustained downturn in the housing/construction industry which is directly connected to the Building and Safety Department's workload and funding sources.

These funding sources include building permit fees, inspection fees and a variety of other applicable user fees that are tied to the housing and construction markets, and which are required to fully fund the Building and Safety Department.

"It is always difficult when economic factors drive decisions that impact capable, hard-working people who are part of our Washoe County family," said County Manager Katy Singlaub. "But just as business owners in the private sector are forced to make similar decisions to live within their resources, Washoe County must continue to be financially responsible. We are committed to maintaining our excellent level of customer service, and hope that citizens will not be negatively affected."

Singlaub also said that the county will offer those employees impacted by these reductions job sharing, retirement and/or voluntary resignations, and hope they will find viable alternatives as well as come back to the county when the economy improves.

Although the Washoe County Commission raised fees charged by Building and Safety by an average of 40% in June, with another proposed 40% increase in December, it was still not enough to account for the budget shortfall. Because this Department is an enterprise fund, its operating costs are fully funded through user fees as opposed to the County's general fund.

In addition, all County departments have been asked to develop cost reduction plans as a result of the continued declines in sales tax revenues in our region. Sales taxes, which are significantly dependent upon new construction and automobile sales, make up about 40% of the County's general fund.

County officials note that they do not anticipate that further reductions in staffing will occur for non-enterprise funded departments, however the County Commission will soon consider budget tightening measures, such as a hiring freeze as well as an across-the-board targeted spending reduction.