City staff have finance plan they say won't hurt services

By Dave Frank

Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City staff members have proposed budget cuts and fee hikes they say will fix city finances without hurting services.

Among the recommendations are that open positions should stay unfilled; an eighth of a cent sales tax should be added for street maintenance; and sewer, landfill and business licenses fees should increase for the 2008 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Staff will also propose cutting $1.5 million for the next fiscal year at the Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday morning.

The cuts will slow some departments, staff said, and fee increases will hit large businesses.

Most increases, however, would have a small affect on the average user. The business license increase would cost the average applicant less than $4 more. Sewer and landfill fee increases would cost the average user an extra few dollars on their bills.

But the proposed 25 percent sewer fee increase would hit "big users" like casinos, according to Public Works Director Andy Burnham. He said a 25 percent fee increase at the city landfill could cost some businesses who already pay several hundred dollars a visit to the site.

The sewer fee increases would be done in two stages this year and help fund the $1.6 million shortfall in the sewer fund.

The sewer department, like other departments, would be hit by cuts and delay upgrades at the treatment plant. Burnham said some of the parts at the plant are over 40 years old.

Mary Walker, a financial consultant for the city, said the budget proposals are comprehensive and necessary to turn around the city's finances by the end of the fiscal year.

The city faced a $3 million shortfall in its main fund at the beginning of January, but has since moved the landfill fund into the main fund to cut the shortfall in half.

The initial shortfall in the general fund plus shortfalls in sewer, water, building permit and street maintenance funds were "huge," Walker said.

For the next fiscal year, city staff will also recommend cutting spending and transferring $1 million from the rainy day fund to the city's main fund.

Finance Director Nick Providenti said the proposals will cut resources "to the bone," but won't force departments to cut services.

A report released this month showed the city's taxable sales up more than 10 percent from November 2006 to November 2007, but the city should still be cautious, said Supervisor Richard Staub.

Reports from the previous six months have shown slow sales.

"The numbers don't lie," Staub said. "We have to get the budget balanced."

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

If you go

WHAT: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

WHERE: Sierra Room of the Community Center, 851 E. William St.

On the Net: A copy of the agenda and supporting materials are available at www.carson-city.nv.us. Go to the Board of Supervisors link under the City Government tab.

Other items on the agenda:

• They will vote whether to accept City Manager Linda Ritter's resignation. She announced plans Friday to work the last 18 months on her contract as advisor to the new city manager, who she hopes will be Development Services Director Larry Werner. Ritter has said she will not be at the meeting.

• Kent Witt, manager of North Carson Crossing shopping center, has asked the board to continue his appeal over a 65-foot-tall freeway sign. He wants to respond to the concerns of residents in the Northridge subdivision near the proposed site of the sign. The board rejected his first appeal Jan. 3. The planning commission rejected his proposal Nov. 28 but did approve a 45-foot-tall sign. Witt has said he needs the sign to advertise stores such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, but residents have said the sign is intrusive and unnecessarily large. The planning commission is looking at rules for signs along the freeway and has called a moratorium on permits for signs above 30 feet. The shopping center is the largest in the city.

• The board will look at a federal legislative packet that could ask for funding for the V&T Railway, a Department of Homeland Security required regional radio system and rehabilitating the area hit by the 2005 Waterfall fire. The city will also ask for 9,775 acres of federal land, mostly for open space, in transfers or exchanges.

• City human resources have reached an agreement with the Carson City Sheriff's Protective Association on a four-year $16.6 million contract that would raise deputies pay about $2.50 an hour to a total of $24.11 an hour. Supervisors have to approve the agreement.

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