Personnel, pending decisions on capital projects and protecting Western Nevada College programs will concern Carson City government leaders in 2014.
Those issues and others rivet the attention of members of the city Board of Supervisors, particularly the search for the next city manager and whether capital improvements can be made in downtown and outlying business corridors, along with partial funding of two constructions projects. Supervisor Brad Bonkowski calls those key personnel and project-related decisions intertwined.
“For me,” Bonkowski said, “the city manager is the one that’s going to make sure if these projects are successful or not.” He has been helping shepherd efforts to get the projects approved and an eighth-of-a-cent sales-tax boost to raise $1 million annually, which would be earmarked to support $15 million in bonding to do them.
The projects: city-scape enhancements downtown, including prospects to narrow Carson Street in that area in hopes that two vehicular traffic lanes attract pedestrians; city-scape upgrades to the north and south on Carson Street, and east along the William Street/U.S. Highway 50 East corridor; plus money to help build a large multi-purpose athletic center and an animal shelter.
Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisor Karen Abowd joined Bonkowski in placing the projects and choosing a new city manager among their top priorities, but the mayor added that he was concerned about preservation of Western Nevada College programs.
Supervisor John McKenna, who is the board’s representative to work on preserving WNC’s viability, is concerned with that as well, along with selecting a new city manager. He also voiced concerns about being a budget hawk by building city reserves and avoiding unnecessary expenditures.
Supervisor Jim Shirk didn’t name WNC or the projects, nor did he directly refer to finding a new city manager to replace Larry Werner, who retired Dec. 19. But Shirk’s priorities showed his mind is on the top personnel decision.
“Board members must be provided a monthly update communication from the city manager,” Shirk said. “Never in the past year had I personally been provided one.”
Shirk’s other priorities include support for the city’s Sesquicentennial Fair at Fuji Park and Fairgrounds, planned for July 30-Aug. 3; street maintenance, repair and snow removal; having monthly family-oriented community events, and “release (of) our pre-agenda items early” to allow more time to investigate them and ask questions.
Interim City Manager Marena Works, Werner’s deputy until his retirement, has a full plate with her expanded management duties and her ongoing priority of spearheading the fair that Shirk mentioned. She named that event as among her top priorities for 2014. The goal is to hold a successful fair that is a Nevada 150 signature event, then build it into an annual state fair in subsequent years.
Parks and Recreation Department Director Roger Moellendorf sees 2014 as important in his arena because it is filled with various possibilities, not the least of which is helping with that Sesquicentennial Fair and working toward adding a larger multi-athletic center rather than the smaller one under consideration without additional financing.
He also mentioned deciding where to put a disc golf course complex and what to do about Empire Ranch, a 27-hole regular golf course complex, because of bankruptcy problems. The city must distribute wastewater effluent after treatment onto golf courses and doesn’t want to lose one of those water users.
“It’s going to be a big year,” Moellendorf said.
But the city’s main focus in the first quarter of 2014 remains the search for a new city manager and meetings, along with decisions, over the capital project proposals.
Not only the board, but others in city government who are on edge regarding the ultimate choice to head the city’s staff will watch the city manager search process unfold, from salary decisions Jan. 16 to selection in March or soon after.
Human Resources Director Melanie Bruketta said the board in mid-January will decide on a brochure and set compensation designed to lure city manager candidates. Locally, only Fire Chief Stacey Giomi has expressed potential interest, but he awaits the board’s decision-making process next month before making his own decision on applying. Giomi has been with the city three decades.
Before any final decision on which projects to include in the capital improvement plan, as well as whether to boost the city sales tax by using the final one-eighth-penny of city sales-tax authority, there are two town hall-type meetings expected and a “plan of expenditure” board meeting. The latter is set for Feb. 20. A four-vote board majority is needed to increase the city sales tax after that.
The board also must begin deliberations on its fiscal year 2014-15 budget during the first half of calendar 2014. In this fiscal year, the general fund budget was more than $60 million, and it isn’t likely to mushroom much in FY 14-15 unless tax receipts balloon as the months go by.
A 3.75 percent boost in some tax receipts is projected, Finance Director Nick Providenti said. He said city sales tax brings in a bit more than $20 million and property tax a bit under that figure, and together they account for the bulk of the annual general fund budget. With just four months of the current fiscal year’s take counted, he said, receipts are running just a bit over the 3.75 percent boost anticipated. Another reading will be taken in the spring.
“For me again, it’s sales and property tax,” Providenti said. “We’re hoping the numbers meet our expectations.”
All this may seem to put the WNC issue on the back burner initially, but concern by Crowell’s and McKenna’s involvement reflects fears in the greater community. For example, Gil Yanuck, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, recently said WNC programs for lodging hospitality personnel and computer-operated industrial machinery skills are key.
In addition, there is talk of eventual changes at the state level that might require area taxation to provide local funding in addition to dwindling state financing of such colleges. Ultimately, a concern is whether the state might even mount an initiative to fold WNC and Truckee Meadows Community College into one unit.