Budget hinges on utility fees

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Rejecting the opposition of Mayor Ray Masayko and the business community, the other supervisors on Thursday increased utility franchise fees to add or expand 10 city positions.

Then they dipped nearly $100,000 more out of the city's million dollar reserve to add to their $200,000 budget for one-shot expenses during a three-hour session to finalize Carson City's budget for the coming year.

The final total budget will be just about $45 million.

The ongoing costs of the added positions will be paid for by a half-percent increase in the franchise fees paid by Sierra Pacific Power and Southwest Gas, raising a total of $310,000 a year.

But to the surprise of many in the audience, supervisors Robin Williamson, Jon Plank, Pete Livermore and Richard Staub also voted to create a new franchise fee that will add 1 percent to city sewer and water bills. That will raise another $100,000 for a total of $410,000. The city has never before charged a franchise fee for the city-owned water and sewer services.

Masayko opposed any tax or fee increases, saying the board should use reserves to pay for staff expansions, part of the support for the Silver Springs juvenile center and other necessary costs. Altogether, his plan would have used up about three-quarters of the city's $1 million in reserves.

He said franchise fees hit everyone, including those on fixed incomes.

His approach was supported by the Chamber's Larry Osborne, who said businessmen believe "the city has not yet shown a need to increase taxes or franchise fees to maintain current levels of services."

Other board members said the needs are valid and proven and backed increasing franchise fees to pay for them. They also expressed serious concerns about draining the reserves during tough economic times.

"Just to expend the reserves because I don't want to have to dip in my pocket for an other nickel I don't think is prudent or intelligent," said Livermore.

The big winner was public safety -- particularly the Sheriff's Department -- which will get two communications supervisors and three dispatchers for the combined dispatch center and an additional patrol deputy.

The budget also includes a radio-technician position, an increase in hours for community development's compliance officer and a half-time seasonal position at Centennial Park, as well as a full-time information systems position.

The most prominent requests not funded this year are four new firefighters and an additional librarian.

The traditional list of community support groups from CASA and RSVP to the Community Council on Youth, Brewery Arts Center and Center for Independent Living all received at least what they got this past year. In addition, the board voted to use some city reserve money to increase by 50 percent the city subsidy for retired employee medical coverage -- $46,000 -- pay the $50,000 to convert the court clerk's case management system and buy $20,000 worth of new library books.

Altogether, they spent $296,000 on one-shot items.


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