City officials hammer away at budget reductions for next year
Will the library close on Saturdays? Maybe. Will the pool remain open every Sunday? No.
Those are just two decisions Carson City supervisors and city departments have plowed through after more than seven hours of budget hearings in the past week. They plan to make final reduction decisions Thursday and then find ways to make up any differences.
While some departments are being given praise and thanks for finding ways to trim spending without cutting staff, other departments are being held to task over a few thousand dollars.
“This is not an exercise,” Mayor Ray Masayko said. “This is as serious as a heart attack.”
Carson City is feeling the pain of losing major retail outlets during the past year that severely reduced its sales tax income and is now faced with cutting $2.2 million from next fiscal year’s budget that begins July 1.
Supervisors heard from key departments Monday night, including fire, police, library and parks services.
Library officials were asked Monday to make the full 3 percent in cuts, nearly $44,500. Staff and the Library Board of Trustees explained their intention of closing the library on Saturdays, despite repeated comments from supervisors who asked the library to explore every other possibility. Supervisors asked them to find a way to cut $7,000 from other areas, the same amount library officials are saying they will save in utilities by closing Saturdays.
“The public is perceiving this as punitive,” Supervisor Shelly Aldean said. “It reflects poorly on us and poorly on you because you chose to make those decisions.”
Library officials maintained that any cuts they make will affect the public, but they were unwilling to cut staff hours or the book purchasing fund. As a result, library staff will take the proposal to close Saturdays back to the Library Board of Trustees on April 22.
“It’s definitely not a done deal … now that we know for sure we have to go for the full $44,105,” Deputy Library Director Traci Haakinson said. “(The board is) going to be more creative and investigate all other options because they don’t want to close on Saturdays.”
Parks and recreation staff said they still plan to close the city’s pool 36 Sundays out of the year. Fewer than 40 residents use the pool on those days, staff said. If more money is found, the pool may be open some hours on Sundays in the future.
The Latch Key program will reduce staff hours according to program needs, for instance have fewer staff on hand when fewer children are present.
The parks department was able to work out a deal with the city’s Internal Finance Committee to keep all seasonal workers employed this year. They will look for ways to raise revenue in sports programs, like raise basketball fees from $35 to $38 a player, and with a concession stand at softball games, Director Steve Kastens said.
Supervisors heard ominous predictions from the Fire Department as Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshall Steve Mihelic warned the board that if they cut one a fire prevention officer’s hours from full time to part time, the city would return to 1975 levels of service.
Supervisors decided to take $125,000 in reductions from the fire department and return $20,000, half of what they estimated it would cost to maintain a full-time prevention officer. The department will make cuts in training for administrative staff, operations and overtime and cut other areas.
The sheriff’s department was given breathing room Monday after offering up only half of the 3 percent in cuts asked by the board. Sheriff Kenny Furlong delivered slightly more than $177,000 in cuts but still fell short.
Staff “did everything we could to come closer and achieve 3 percent,” Furlong said. “We have really sliced to the bone.” Additional cuts would have to come from salary reductions, he said.
Supervisor Richard Staub and Masayko asked Furlong to investigate the possibility of cutting one day a month from employee time, like the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office implemented this year. The department was also asked to look into charging for false alarm calls.
The department is also expecting more than $100,000 in reimbursements for incarceration of illegal aliens, Furlong said, but he was not counting on that for the budget. Furlong said the department is having success filling open sworn positions and recruiting reservists.
“We really have got to give you a chance to put your own stamp, your own mold on the department to succeed,” Masayko said, after allowing the department to forego finding additional cuts.
Supervisors will meet Thursday to make final budget decisions on department cuts and ways to supplement the budget. That may mean dipping into a reserve fund or raising property taxes, Masayko said.
IF YOU GO
What: Carson City Supervisors special budget meeting
When: 1 p.m. Thursday
Where: Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.