Carson City officials say budget cuts expected | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City officials say budget cuts expected

Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City expects to make budget cuts that could affect services. The cuts, however, will probably be smaller than some in the rest of the state and will likely not be across the board.

The Board of Supervisors hired a consultant at a meeting Thursday to look at the budget and track spending with the help of the city manager. They will give a report next month.

City Manager Linda Ritter said the departments have been making cuts since the last fiscal year, so the city probably won’t have to make cuts like the 8 percent reduction Gov. Jim Gibbons has asked for from most state agencies.

Departments have done things such as leaving open positions unfilled, Ritter said, and that has helped to cut spending about $1.5 million last fiscal year and about $466,000 so far this fiscal year, which started in July.

The best way to continue to save money is to let departments make cuts where they can, she said, rather than ordering something like a limited hiring freeze, which the board did in October. Most positions have been unfrozen since then, however.

Ritter agreed that the economy will be slow for at least the next year and a half, so the city needs to find a way to control spending.

A drop in sales taxes and a capped property tax rate could help to put the city over $2 million behind by the end of the year, said Mayor Marv Teixeira, who is also on the board of supervisors.

Sales taxes in the city, for instance, dropped almost 5 percent from September 2006 to September 2007. Teixeira said the situation probably won’t improve soon.

“Everything I’ve checked into sucks right now,” he said. “It ain’t good.”

Mary Walker, the consultant the city hired who is also a former city finance director, said this is the worst economic situation she’s seen in almost 25 years.

The city is in “uncharted waters” due to the state property tax cap and dependency on sales taxes that have fallen, said Supervisor Richard Staub.

The board should look at “downsizing” departments, he said, and that could mean layoffs.

Parks Director Roger Mollendorf presented what Supervisor Pete Livermore called a “doomsday scenario” on Tuesday.

Mollendorf said that a 5 percent cut would add up to over $300,000 in losses for his department. This would mean cutting a maintenance worker, an office worker and possibly a youth program manager. He said this would also hurt overall maintenance and landscaping.

An alternative would be to raise fees, he said.

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

In other city news:

• A $100,000 redevelopment incentive was awarded to the Lopiccolo Investments to help redevelop the downtown St. Charles Hotel. The owners, Jenny and Mark Lopiccolo, said they have spent $1.2 million so far and wouldn’t be able to finish renovating the second and third floors of the 145-year-old hotel without the money. The Firkin and Fox, an English-style pub, is scheduled to open soon in the first floor.

• Robert Darney, a Carson City architect working with the Lopiccolos on the Third Street area, said he is working on bringing a winery downtown. The business would import California grapes but make the wine in the building, he said.

• A request to release $1 million for downtown projects that has been set aside for parking was turned down. Projects included the Carson Mall and an area around a downtown federal building being looked at as a site for the new library. Supervisors said they would look at releasing the money on a case-by-case basis.

• A first reading for a change in fire code was approved that would change the fee for false alarms from $150 per occurrence after the first occurrence to $300 per occurrence after the third occurrence. The change needs to be approved a second time to go into effect. Supervisors asked the fire department to look at how this could affect businesses.

• North Carson Crossing will appeal a request for a permit for a 65-foot sign to the board at the Dec. 20 meeting. The planning commission turned down the request last month.

• There is a new Web site promoting downtown redevelopment: http://www.downtownanswers.com