Carson City supervisors approve tentative budget
The Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved Carson City’s fiscal year 2020 tentative budget.
The budget includes the estimated $92.7 million general fund, with a projected revenue increase of 3 percent to $82.5 million and an ending fund balance of $6.2 million or 8.3 percent. The city is forecasting a 2.5 percent jump in the consolidated tax and 4.5 percent increase in property tax revenue, the main sources of revenue for the general fund.
The city’s general fund plus its other funds, which have restrictions on spending, are expected to collect $172.4 million in revenue with estimated expenditures of $176 million. The roughly $4 million difference will be made up by greater than anticipated revenue in 2019 rolled over into the new year.
The board spent most of the afternoon discussing the supplemental requests made by various departments. The requests first go to the city’s Internal Finance Committee, which this year whittled down $3.5 million in supplemental requests to $2.3 million to bring to the board for approval.
Among the requests were $150,214 for a new deputy district attorney who will replace a retiring outside lawyer for the Public Guardian; $78,301 for an environmental health position, which is being partially offset by a part-time job cut and fees for services from Douglas County; and two new ambulance drivers.
A rangemaster, at a salary of $79,516, was approved to provide a full-time ranger for the Carson Rifle and Pistol Range, and Public Works requested a new position for a transportation/traffic engineer. In all, 11 full-time equivalents were added.
The new traffic engineer will provide traffic studies for city projects, such as the impacts of the South Carson Street project, as well as for projects proposed by developers, who now hire their own consultants.
“We saw that we need to look at this holistically and not just one intersection at a time,” said Darren Schulz, director, Public Works.
With the new position, the city will likely require developers pay for the city engineer to do a required study, offsetting some of the costs of the new position, or to hire from a short list of city-approved consultants.
Supervisor Stacey Giomi said he wanted to be sure the city was not mandating studies to create a revenue source, but Schulz said municipal code is clear on when traffic studies are required.
“Yes, they would basically hire the city to do the study,” said Schulz. “We feel it would be better if we were in control rather than the developer.”
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski agreed.
“I’m a developer, I hire a engineer and I tell them to go out there at 6:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m instead of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” he said, describing a hypothetical in which the traffic impact of a project is minimized. “It makes a big difference.”
The supervisors also questioned $225,000 requested by Public Works for an asset management reserve study, the next phase in the city’s asset management program, to clarify what the study would provide.
The supplemental requests item ended with a discussion of equity adjustments brought up by Supervisor Lori Bagwell.
“I think we’re making a big mistake when we go outside the contract process,” said Bagwell. “I think all the employees are superstars and I think we’re making a mistake on equity adjustments.”
Bagwell said she was talking about giving pay raises outside the contract negotiations between the city and collective bargaining units, which represent roughly 80 percent of city employees, as well as the possibility of favoritism shown to one employee over another.
The adjustments, six in total on the supplemental requests, bump an individual employee’s salary more than the normal merit increase but within their pay range. By policy, the adjustments are reviewed by the city’s IFC and approved by the city manager, but Nancy Paulson, city manager, said she brought them forward during the budget process to ensure there’s sufficient money to fund them and there are no plans to approve any more in fiscal year 2020.
Schulz said he requested the adjustments when an employee was hired at the bottom of the salary range due to, for example, lack of government experience but who had gained the experience and skills after some time and were being paid significantly less than their counterparts.
“Not all individuals have a collective bargaining unit,” said Tad Fletcher, chief, Alternative Sentencing, who had originally asked for a higher salary for the employee in his request and was asking again. “That’s my job as his boss to go for that.”
The supervisors voted to approve the supplemental requests with some minor changes, but the city will likely reevaluate its policy on equity adjustments.
The board also approved $7.5 million in capital improvements, including $2.5 million in new and replacement vehicles, $545,845 for Public Works radio equipment, $303,476 to repave the Edmonds Sports Complex parking lot, and $300,000 for playground equipment replacement.
The board will approve the final budget at a special meeting May 20.