Washoe County Commissioners received and accepted County Manager Katy Simon’s recommended budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The proposed $311 million general fund budget addresses a $31.3 million deficit projected for the 2011-12 fiscal year due to a continued decline in property values and, thus, property tax revenues, projected to be 7% lower than the 2010-11 year. Sales tax revenues are projected to increase about 1% for the next fiscal year.
The 2011-12 recommended budget reflects reductions to departments’ operating budgets of $5.7 million, $5 million in first-year savings by redefining county services, a one-time $9.75 million infusion from fund balances, and $11.6 in employee labor costs savings (still to be negotiated with the county’s nine employee unions). The recommended budget includes the elimination of 42.5 vacant positions, elimination of three occupied positions in the Public Works Department and work hours reduction or funding source change for three other occupied positions in the County.
Washoe County has reduced its budgets over the past four years by $123 million, and staff has been reduced by 16% (725 positions). Spending levels are now at 2005 levels, with staffing at 2004 or earlier levels. If the County Manager’s recommended budget is ultimately approved by the Board later this month, it would mean that the County has reduced its budget over the past five years by a total of 769 positions and more than $154 million, with the recommended General Fund spending budget for 2011-2012 some 21% less than 2007-08. Employees have foregone cost-of-living raises since 2007 and have given back voluntary wage and benefit concessions that totaled more than $9 million this year alone. Employees have already agreed to shoulder more of their health care costs in 2011-12 which helped reduce the original $33.5 million projected deficit to $31.3 million, reflected in reducing the amount of labor costs savings needed.
According to County Manager Katy Simon, "We are extremely grateful to the dedicated Washoe County employees who have given up their wages and benefits time and again to meet our shortfalls, to our department managers and staff who have consistently identified efficiencies and innovations to serve our citizens despite staggering budget cuts, and to our citizens who have volunteered more than 40,000 hours this year to help us survive this crisis. The County Commission has had to make extremely difficult choices about service cuts over these four years, and we are grateful for the public’s understanding. No one likes cutting public safety, or crucial social services to children, families and seniors, or library and parks services, but these are the choices we have had to make."
While the Board accepted the recommended 2011-12 budget, it also acknowledged that it does not reflect any impact the 2011 Legislative Session may have on the budget in keeping with existing State law. By statute, the County’s budget can be amended after it is filed by June 1st to reflect any impacts. The Manager’s recommended budget for 2011-2012 will be voted on by the County Commission at a public hearing on Monday May 16 at the County Commission Chambers starting at 10 a.m.