Upgrades in Public Safety Services Unlikely

The Carson City budget season promises to be a cold one for public safety departments hoping to squeeze funding from a budget already $2.2 million short of breaking even.

While city supervisors discuss ways to stretch projected revenue to meet existing demands, public safety officials are coming forward with requests for funding increases that will be hard to meet.

On Monday, supervisors noted the requests and promised consideration, but spoke the same refrain - money for 2001 will be hard to come by.

Fire Chief Louis Buckley is struggling with a staff he believes is overextended in the field. Ideally, he would like to see a trio of four-firefighter crews on call with engines in the case of multiple disasters.

Buckley has put in a request for an increase of $300,000 to an annual budget of close to $6 million, but said he doesn't have "any high hopes."

"One-shot funding may be the best we can get," he said. "If they determine that we can't afford it, then we can't afford it."

As it stands, the department runs with two four-firefighter teams, one crew of three firefighters and two ambulances. "It's less than what we believe would be adequate," he said.

Buckley's request, which will be voted on during next Monday's meeting, asks the city to add four new firefighters, a traffic signal preemption system and additional training.

One of the fire department's concerns is a labor law that requires four firefighters to be on scene before going into a burning structure. In the case of life or death, firefighters are permitted to enter without the four-person minimum.

District Attorney Noel Waters repeated a request for an investigator that he has made over the last five year. An increasing caseload is putting pressure on an already overextended prosecuting staff, he said.

"My view is that the request is reasonable, but the issue is 'can we meet it?'" he said. "There are about 10,500 cases in our office. Next year we are looking at 800 felonies."

Waters' staff of 25 investigates and prosecutes criminal, civil and child-support cases in Carson City. He said his office generates at least 20,800 hours of work annually. Next year's cost per hour is expected to come out just over $81.

"You've got a job to do and you rely upon other departments to help with the workloads," he said, describing the network of public safety offices. "It's like a boa constrictor that swallows a hog - it works its way through."

Waters' requests total about $80,000. In addition to the investigator, the office would like a full-time receptionist.

He said Monday's meeting included "all the gloomy things about trying to balance the budget." In order to meet the projected deficit, supervisors have to consider one or a combination of cost cutting, employee health insurance reductions or a property tax increase.

Other public safety offices requesting increases include; justice court, for $25,806 to fund a part-time clerical position; alternative sentencing, for $22,956 to fund a part time clerical position; environmental health, for $11,860 to fund 5,840 on-call hours and the sheriff's department for $157,260 to fund 2.5 additional officers.


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