Carson City cuts budget to the bone
Carson City officials slashed 10 percent across the board from all city departments Thursday – including nearly 30 public safety positions – to balance a $10 million budget deficit.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong, who told the board his department was 90 percent salary-based, and that he would lose 20 positions, asked that supervisors consider cutting only 5 percent of his budget and find other ways to absorb the other 5 percent.
“Of the $1.6 million from our operating budget, about half I can work with, but anything we talk about is going to involve salaries,” he said. “The 5 percent cuts would be $750,000, which will impact the community. We would lose five sworn positions and five civilians.”
Supervisor Robin Williamson said she was sympathetic, but that she believed the board should be consistent with all departments.
“Every line on (the list of cuts) is somebody’s family,” she said.
Furlong said the 20 positions would come from dispatch, the jail and patrol.
Don Gibson, president of the Carson City Deputies Association, said they were willing to work with the city.
“We are willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to keep deputy sheriffs on the streets and not lose jobs, as long as there is equity across the board,” Gibson said.
Resident Richard Schneider, a former FBI agent, urged the board to find alternatives to cutting sheriff and fire personnel.
“If you’re considering firing public safety employees, you’re making a great mistake,” Schneider said. “Whatever risks you take, cuts should be made in a progressive fashion.”
Fire Chief Stacey Giomi did not speak at the Thursday meeting, but said Tuesday he will lose one of three fire inspectors, and six of his 57 firefighter positions.
In addition, Fire Station 3 on Snyder Avenue may reduce hours of operation, response times are likely to increase, and interlocal agreements with neighboring counties will probably have to be cancelled.
Early this week, the city released a list of 24 positions to be cut, with the exception of the 20 from the sheriff’s department.
Four of the 24 positions on the list are already vacant – a full-time animal regulation officer and three full-time firefighter/paramedics.
Other positions that will be lost include two full-time library assistants and six part-time library employees; the Parks and Recreation Department’s part-time aid supervisor, three full-time building maintenance workers, one full-time head lifeguard, one full-time reservation coordinator and one part-time clerical position. One part-time mail courier will be cut from the Finance Department.
All departments were asked late last year to submit a list of proposed cuts to City Manager Larry Werner’s office, which he prioritized to accommodate several levels of cuts – with most sheriff and fire department positions the last to go.
However, when the newest sales tax revenue figures were released, the city’s worst fears were confirmed.
The newest list approved by the board Thursday did not include a 2 percent salary reduction option from the original list, which would have generated $707,558.
Gibson said 2 percent salary reductions would only work if all five of the city’s bargaining units (which include all city employees) were willing to participate.
If not, then “it’s an inequity and we’re back to where we were with respect to the layoffs,” he said.
The board voted unanimously for the 10 percent cuts but directed Werner to go back to the bargaining units to see whether they would be willing to institute the salary reductions citywide.
Werner advised the board that due to necessary notification procedures, “a bunch of letters have to go out for layoffs right away.”
He estimated that between 40-45 letters will need to be sent, but that they could be rescinded if other measures can be instituted.
A tentative budget is due to the state’s Department of Taxation by April 15.
In a related matter, Linda Ritter, who monitors the Carson City Operations Scorecard, suggested her work could be used to monitor the effects of the job cuts.
“Let’s measure what’s happening on the ground – response times, closing fire stations. If you find an impact that is not going in a direction you feel comfortable with, you can make a course correction,” Ritter said. “The allocation of resources is in your control.”
Supervisor Shelly Aldean said residents turned down a recent tax override, “so this will be good to show to the public.”
Werner agreed the data would be valuable to officials.
“This is critical because you don’t know what your dollar is doing out on the street,” he said. “I really hate across-the-board cuts, so the data would come back to you, and you’d set the service levels for quantity and quality.”