Uncertain budget freezes youth violence program funding

Hopes for a Carson City youth violence program dwindled Thursday as city supervisors opted not to spend extra money in an attempt to avoid a property-tax increase.

The city's budget next year remains uncertain, because sales tax figures are coming in lower than expected.

Many residents attended Thursday's meeting hoping to see $80,000 allocated to a program promoted by Mayor Ray Masayko as a way to curb youth violence.

Supervisors not only quashed that idea, but decided they were opposed to a proposed 9 percent property tax increase that would fund $500,000 of the city's capital improvement program, as well as $266,000 for Carson City's share of costs at the Western Nevada Regional Youth Center in Silver Springs.

A decision on capital improvement requests, such as money for computers or desks, was delayed as well.

"We basically said we're not going to spend discretionary funds until we know what happens next year," Supervisor Robin Williamson said.

The city had a $2.2 million surplus this year in its capital improvement budget. Most of that money is dedicated to capital projects, but $500,000 of the proposed revenue was dependent on the proposed property tax increase.

"We're dealing with make-believe numbers," Supervisor Jon Plank said. "I want to see the money in the bank."

The city is facing a tight 2000-2001 budget year, with more than $700,000 extra needed to continue providing the same health benefits package for employees.

Sales tax revenue is sliding, and City Finance Director David Heath said the picture is not rosy.

Without a 9 percent property tax increase, Heath said, he would have to find a way to cut $766,000 from the city's operating budget, which could mean jobs.

The quickest way to make up for lost dollars is to take $500,000 from capital projects. That would still leave a $266,000 shortfall - equal to a 3 percent property tax increase - in the budget. It would also mean reappropriating dollars for capital projects.

"In order to balance the budget, we raised (property taxes) in lieu of budget cuts," Heath told supervisors. "We had no breathing room. We were literally scrambling for dollars."

A 9 percent increase in property taxes, for example, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $17.50, Heath said.

About $250,000 was set aside for supervisors to decide Thursday if they wanted to use it as discretionary spending. Masayko was hoping supervisors would spring for an $80,000 contribution to his proposed youth violence program.

"We're building in a six-month delay," Masayko said. "Now they can't get started and there's a six month delay for funding."

One part of the youth violence program made it out of the decision with a hope of funding. The Mentoring 2000 Task Force, which is asking for $30,000 , could get money from the city's contingency fund at the Feb. 3 meeting. The city's contingency fund is now about $112,000, down from $300,000.

Masayko said he was disappointed with the decision on youth violence programs.

"Their future is a little cloudy now," Masayko said. "There doesn't appear to be support for discretionary spending."


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