Two months ago Nancy Paulson became Carson City’s interim manager, appointed by the Board of Supervisors after former manager Nick Marano declined to renew his contract in June.
Paulson, previously the city’s chief financial officer, inherited oversight of a city in the midst of several large projects.
A new, 15-year waste management contract is in the works and will add significant new services. The city’s program to take an inventory of buildings, parks, equipment, and other assets, to improve maintenance is in full swing. Public Works is working on several large projects, including the second phase of the Water Resource Recovery Facility rehab, and major road projects such as the ongoing Curry Street reconstruction and the upcoming South Carson Street redesign. And the city is in the process of swapping out its enterprise resource planning package, or software backbone, as well as the software that runs the Assessor’s and Treasurer’s offices.
“We haven’t done anything like this since the 1990s, and the Treasurer’s and Assessor’s since the 1980s,” said Paulson, referring to the new software installations. “It is a huge undertaking.”
Given her background, Paulson is also turning her focus to money.
“Definitely our No. 1 priority is increasing the reserves,” she said. “We know a recession will come but we don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
In 2007, the city set aside 22 percent of its general fund revenue. Then the recession hit and reserves fell to 5 percent. Now, revenues have climbed back up and some have been used to catch up with maintenance long delayed during the recession while bumping up the reserves to above 8 percent.
Paulson plans to bring to the supervisors a policy setting the minimum reserve amount at 8.3 percent. Any revenue above that amount is always a choice of funding something new or beefing up the reserves, she said.
Take the money from marijuana sales. The city gets 3 percent of the gross revenue from each marijuana business as part of their annual business license fee. The city initially forecast that would bring in about $300,000 in the first year, but it’s looking like it will produce at least twice that, said Paulson.
The money goes into the general fund and isn’t earmarked, but Paulson is proposing using some to fund two more traffic enforcement officers requested by the Sheriff’s Office but not included in the fiscal year 2019 budget.
“Those were a couple of positions we wanted to pay for but couldn’t,” said Paulson. “But the board may say ‘Increase our ending fund balance.’”
The city is also looking to fund more road work by redirecting some of 1/8 percent of the sales tax set aside to pay the debt service on bonds to reconstruct the V&T Railroad. The set aside is raising more money than needed, but is restricted by ordinance and by its plan of expenditure to be spent on the bonds. The bonds can’t be paid off before 2024 so in the meantime the city plans to take the excess — about $400,000 annually and $900,000 already accumulated — on street maintenance.
Adriana Fralick, the interim deputy city manager and former chief deputy district attorney, is working on that, said Paulson.
Paulson and Fralick are also updating the city’s strategic plan. The current one is a couple of years old so the city manager’s office wants to check off accomplishments and add new goals. The plan will likely be brought to the board at its annual retreat held in January or February.
One of the existing goals is team building and succession planning so the city is holding a retreat for department directors in September and Paulson is working with the human resource department to start training that brings together employees from different departments with similar functions.
Paulson has also been tasked with developing a policy around the city’s use of temporary employees. The board this month approved a contract not to exceed $1.7 million with four temp agencies. The city’s use of temporary workers has fluctuated between $1.5 million and $1 million in recent years. It was initially used to save on paying workers compensation and unemployment for seasonal workers. Then during the recession hiring full-time workers was infeasible so departments had to use temporary employees for some work.
Now, the city wants to revaluate the practice, and see when and where it makes sense.
“We just started the process of gathering information and asking the departments why they are using them,” said Paulson. “And then we’ll come up with an overall policy.”