Carson City supervisors OK tentative $160M budget after cuts, get update on coronavirus response
The Board of Supervisors Thursday passed a pared down tentative budget for the next fiscal year and discussed the state of the Carson City response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The board approved a fiscal year 2021 budget of approximately $160 million, a drop from this year’s $176 million budget.
Before the coronavirus crisis hit, the city’s finance department projected roughly $34 million in consolidated tax collections for fiscal year 2021 but is now forecasting about $30.2 million.
The city has already frozen all hiring except for essential vacancies.
The board also voted to delay current year capital improvement projects that have not started. Those projects, costing a total of about $900,000, will be revisited once the city has more sales tax data to base decisions on.
“My intent is to defer them three to six months so we get numbers back and know how much money we’ll really have,” said Supervisor Brad Bonkowski.
The board requested monthly updates from staff about sales tax and other revenue so they could make adjustments to the budget as needed.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay in front of this,” said Supervisor Stacey Giomi. “The city did great job staying in front of it during the recession.”
Uncertainty was a common refrain — uncertainty about the economic impact of the public health emergency, when it would end, and the city’s authority to plan for reopening businesses.
Jeanne Freeman, with the city’s emergency operations center, said Carson City is probably lagging two weeks behind Washoe County, which is starting to see a leveling off of COVID-19 cases.
“We’re still on a climb, not a steep climb,” said Freeman. “We’re still putting out the messaging to stay home. And it’s important to do social distancing.”
Freeman and others warned that the health crisis would not be over until widespread testing or a vaccine was available, and that new surges in cases would likely occur after businesses reopen.
“The health element is going to continue on for a very long time, until we have an antibody test or vaccines,” said Freeman. “The health element will last for several years. It’s a long-term process.”
She said in the quad-county area 904 tests for coronavirus have been done with 51 positive results comprising 39 active cases and 12 recoveries. Of those, 26 people reside in Carson City, seven who have recovered. The health department is tracking 110 individuals, including people who have tested positive and their close contacts.
“We’re finding five to eight close contacts, generally, per case,” said Freeman.
In the three area hospital facilities, 47 percent of the acute care beds are occupied, 46 percent of the intensive care unit beds are filled, and 16 percent of the ventilators are being used. Those numbers includes patients suffering from other other diseases as well.
The quad-county area consists of Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties.
No Carson City employees have tested positive, including no firefighters or Carson City Health and Human Services staff.
Mayor Bob Crowell, who attended the meeting remotely, asked about the city’s authority versus the state’s authority to reopen businesses.
“That’s a very good question. It’s a loaded question,” said Dan Yu, assistant district attorney, who he said he would research it.
The board wants staff to contact Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office to ensure the city takes part in the state’s planning to reopen, especially because the smaller counties have different needs than the two urban counties.
Freeman said the state has begun to work on a recovery plan and that daily calls with the state’s emergency managers help to make the rural perspective known.
“Those are important calls, giving us a voice,” she said.