Douglas County tentatively OKs $81.7 million budget

MINDEN - Douglas County leaders have tentatively approved an $81.7 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

The budget for FY 2000-01 is balanced and requires no major cutbacks or layoffs. County commissioners marveled at the relative ease of a six-hour hearing Thursday, compared to the mid-1990s when the annual budget took two or three days to review and cuts of several hundred thousand dollars had to be made.

This year's budget conflicts came, as anticipated, from the 12 community groups that were seeking a total of $173,000 from an available pot of $87,000.

The Carson Valley Pops Orchestra was an exception, asking for $500 and getting $1,000.

"This is something everybody in the community can use," said Commissioner Kelly Kite, who suggested doubling the funding.

Most others got less than they wanted. The Carson Valley Historical Society asked for $30,000, the group's basic costs to operate the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center and the Genoa Courthouse Museum.

Historical Society Trustee Liz Paul said she was not surprised the group got only $6,000. She added that the group wasn't counting on getting the full amount.

"We wanted the commissioners to know that ($30,000) is what it's costing to keep both (museum) doors open," she said after the hearing. "The grant will help pay the light bills. We greatly appreciate the commission's help."

The commissioners approved the grant after grilling Paul and Historical Society President Marlena Hellwinkel about the group's decision to stop leasing space in the Museum and Cultural Center to the East Fork Gallery, an art co-op.

Hellwinkel said the Historical Society wants to use the space for a youth gallery. She said recent research suggested that leasing the space could threaten the Historical Society's nonprofit status and present tax problems.

"It was not a hasty decision," Hellwinkel said.

Commissioner Don Miner said the group should form a long-term business plan that will increase the number of visitors to the Museum and Cultural Center in Gardnerville.

Paul and Hellwinkel assured Miner the group is making long-term plans and is trying to get state and federal grants to augment the county funds.

They also said they will provide the requested financial documents, as will all the other groups. The commissioners decided to make disclosure of the records a requirement for all the groups that are getting grant money.

The grants come from the general fund, which totals $22.7 million for 2000-01. The general fund pays for personnel, public safety and other items.

The tentative budget must be submitted to the state April 15. Another hearing will be held by May 15, and the final budget must be sent back to the state by June 1.


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