Layoffs one option as Lyon County struggles with budget shortfall

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Workers install a roof on a new home in the Santa Maria Ranch area Wednesday.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Workers install a roof on a new home in the Santa Maria Ranch area Wednesday.

Lyon County may have to resort to layoffs to solve its budget problems, but Human Resources Director Steve Englert said that would be a worst-case scenario.

He gave the county's commissioners a list of possible cost savings involving layoffs, ending benefits for dependents and other options, but said they were only suggestions.

"These are just ideas for them to look at and put dollar amounts with each of them," he said.

Englert said the county could save by laying off everyone in positions created in the last three years (except emergency); by laying off everyone in positions created in the last two years, with no exceptions; or by reducing requested overtime.

Other savings could be found by eliminating temporary help; eliminating the 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all employees other than the sworn staff in the sheriff's department; and by eliminating 2 percent merit raises for all except the sheriff's sworn officers.

The county could also cut out dependent health insurance coverage along with pay plan reclassification studies.

"Most of those possibilities are radical compared to what we're actually going to end up with, but we'll know more at the budget hearings," Englert said. "Hopefully by then we'll have it all balanced out and it won't be nearly as traumatic as it looks now."

The county's budget headache can be traced to the building slowdown, the tax cap and a 3 percent tax abatement mandated by the state, said Comptroller Josh Foli.

He presented the commissioners with revenue projections and budget requests that leave the county with a $1.75 million shortfall at the end of the next fiscal year June 30, 2008.

Foli said the building slowdown hurt because it cost the county millions in sales tax revenue.

"The economy has slowed down in Nevada," he said. "It's kind of a domino effect, so our sales taxes have decreased."

Sales taxes are part of the consolidated tax the counties receive from the state, and Foli expects that to be far less than in previous years. He also said lower real estate transfer taxes played a role.

"The real property transfer taxes decreased 27 percent from last year to this year," he said. "When you have building going on and houses are selling, that generates revenue from that tax."

Foli said all of the county's departments have voluntarily reduced their budgets in light of the county's fiscal problems.

He said general fund anticipated revenues have increased by about $380,000, or 1.1 percent, much less than the previous year's $4.3 million or 15.6 percent increase.

He also said the county's beginning fund balance was $1.65 million higher than anticipated.

Foli is not proposing any tax increases because the county is already just 6.43 cents away from the 3.64 percent tax cap the state Legislature enacted in 2005.

In addition to the tax cap and building slowdown, another reason is reduced property taxes, due to a 2005 law giving all property owners a 3 percent tax abatement.

Long-term, Foli said he expected the shortfall in consolidated taxes is just a bump in the road, but that the lower revenue from property taxes is a long-term trend county governments will have to adjust to.

"We're not in a cash crisis," he said. "We're having difficulty with next year's budget and we have to take a strategic approach."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.

Options

• $1.37 million saved by laying off all positions created in the last three years except emergency personnel

• $2.14 million saved by laying off of all positions created in the last two years with no exceptions

• $1.376 million saved by reducing overtime

• $270,000 saved by eliminating temporary help

• $408,000 saved by eliminating 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all positions except Sheriff's sworn officers

• $210,000 saved by eliminating 2.5 percent merit pay for all employees except Sheriff's sworn officers

• $154,000 saved by eliminating dependent health insurance coverage

• $60,500 saved by eliminating pay plan reclassification studies

• $135,000 saved by taking 1 cent from the special medical indigent fund and moving it to the general fund.

• $210,000 saved by leaving 1.55 cents of tax in general fund instead of transferring it to surplus building maintenance fund.

• $300,000 saved by reducing funding contingency fund by 1 percent.

If You Go

WHAT: Lyon County Commission budget hearings

WHEN: 9 a.m. today and Thursday

WHERE: 27 S. Main St., Yerington

CALL: (775) 463-6531

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