Martini began by saying the City of Sparks is “doing more with less,” and went on to discuss the city’s initiatives on innovation, branding, revenue production and creation of a sustainable economy. Martini noted that City of Sparks employees were cut from 645 to 445 with a revenue decrease of $13.2 million in the past five years, causing a decrease of 19 percent in personnel costs.
“If we hoped to get through this recession with the least amount of battering possible, we had to get creative. We had to become innovative,” Martini said.
Martini noted that the unemployment rate in the Reno-Sparks metro area fell to 9.6 percent from 14.2 percent in early 2011. Martini said taxable sales in Washoe County were “trending slightly upward” in the first six months of the fiscal year providing some proof that the city may start to see signs of light.
“The fact is, we are digging ourselves out of the worst downturn we may ever experience in our lifetime,” Martini said. “We don’t expect our revenues to return to pre-recessionary levels for at least another decade, or perhaps longer.
“Sparks is still in the game, but there is more work to be done. It has not been easy — and I don’t anticipate the remnants of this recession to disappear soon. Even in the best of times budgets can be harsh realities. While we may have turned a corner, it is not THE corner.”
Martini said the “stable, yet fragile position” the city is in will offer challenges but allows for major projects to be in the works. Martini cited three significant capital projects completed during 2012 which included area adjustments to the Sparks Marina, Pah Rah Park’s “All Abilities Playground” providing accessible play areas and the Sparks Senior Center stucco repair project extending the life of the building.
“We are so blessed in the City of Sparks to have an incredibly talented staff and I think one of the places they really excel is in project management,” Councilwoman Julia Ratti said following the address. “They understand the time it takes and they understand the need to maintain a quality product but still do it efficiently and protect the tax-payer dollar. I am really proud of our team and they do a great job.”
Ratti said she feels that while the city has plenty of challenges the attitude of the city is showing hopeful signs. After seeing the city operate with fewer employees throughout the recession, Ratti said she has confidence there will be a turnaround.
“I see little signs of hope,” Ratti said. “It is a simple thing, but I think we have all had the opportunity to take a deep breath. The decline was so rapid, and the decisions that had to be made so critical, that the pace for the last four years has been pretty extreme. Now, we are starting to see some flattening out and starting to see signs of hope and I think it is allowing us to take a step back and get out of crisis mode and get into long-term planning mode again and to really have some optimism. I am excited about that.
“It is not that there aren’t real challenges. There are, but to be able to approach them with a bit more optimism and hope for the future I think is a good thing.”
Martini said in the City of Sparks’ efforts to promote and strengthen regional economic development have led the city to buy locally whenever possible. Martini said Nevada businesses received $27 million, or 71 percent, of the city’s purchases. Northern Nevada businesses collected $25 million and Sparks businesses received $12 million, which was a 30 percent of the total and an increase from the previous fiscal year.
“I remain committed to the prosperity of local business entities and encourage the residents of Sparks to patronize local business, just as the city does,” Martini said. “We are also putting a strong emphasis on economic development...to do all we can to make it easier and more attractive to retain, expand and recruit to Sparks.”
Martini went on to address and recognize the Sparks Police and Sparks Fire departments, who were also affected by cutbacks to city personnel, and noted many of their accomplishments. From installing thousands of smoke alarms in Sparks homes to constructing new task forces focused on gang violence, Martini said there is plenty of commendable operations happening in both departments.
Martini also highlighted community sports brought in $19.5 million and saw nearly one million participants in 2012, including 2,400 on the Scheels Turkey Trot. He noted that the Triple Crown World Series Championship, a 100-team baseball tournament, will be relocating from New York City to Golden Eagle Regional Park in July.
In closing, Martini said the goal will be to “promote Sparks as the premier family community in northern Nevada” and said anyone who has been here knows what he is talking about.
“I know that once people experience Sparks, they 'get it,'" he said. "They begin to understand the unique qualities, ambiance and environment that gives Sparks a special sparkle."