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County chips away at deficit
by Tribune Staff
Jul 13, 2011 | 763 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — Washoe County commissioners took further action Tuesday to meet the $33.8 million deficit they must address in the 2011-12 fiscal year by approving interim wage reductions or health benefit program cost sharing for certain employees.

The wage or benefit concessions apply to all confidential, or union-represented, and non-represented employees and are temporary until final labor agreements can be reached with the county’s nine employee associations.

According to District 3 Commissioner Kitty Jung, the interim concessions expire in three months and the county hopes to complete negotiations in that time.

“We are hoping to come to an agreement with the nine collective bargaining units during that time,” Jung said, adding that Tuesday’s agreement is simply an extension of the cuts that earlier this year were agreed upon for FY 2011-12 with the caveat that they would be renegotiated on July 1.

The total savings expected from three identified employee groups is $489,835 — nearly half a million dollars.

The three employee groups affected by the actions are the confidential employee group (wage reduction of 3.34 percent); non-represented attorneys with a health benefit program cost share equal to $162.36 per pay period; and chief investigator (district attorney’s office) with a health benefit program cost share equal to $174.70 per pay period. Each impact will be retroactive to July 4. In addition, compensation for elected officials such as the district attorney and sheriff were voluntarily reduced through extending health benefit contributions that began in 2010-11.

The recommendations for salary and benefit concessions for the non-represented employees, including confidential employees, are the same as the applicable provisions in the proposed collective bargaining agreement with the Washoe County Employees Association (WCEA) Supervisory Unit. The Board of County Commissioners has in the past adopted the same salary and benefits for this group of non-union-represented employees as those contained in the collective bargaining agreement with the WCEA.

“What we do is treat the confidential and non-represented employees the same,” Jung said.

As such, the recommendations for health benefit program cost sharing for the non-represented attorneys are the same as those for the union represented attorneys. Similarly, the health benefit program costs share for the chief investigator is the same as for investigators.

Commissioners on Tuesday also approved concessions for themselves as well as management — including the county manager and assistant county managers — and unclassified management. Overall, each employee group will be asked to concede to about 7 percent ongoing wage and/or benefit concessions.

Just days prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, Washoe County commissioners approved amendments to the 2011-12 budget, with spending cuts reflective of state legislative impacts and the cost of the September special election for the House of Representatives 2nd District seat.

The estimated fiscal impact trickling down from Carson City as a result of shifting costs, reduced state funding and elimination of support for certain social services is about $11 million in 2011-12 and $12 million in 2012-13.

Because some of these impacts were absorbed by various funds and grants, the general fund impact for the next fiscal year is just $2.5 million, a far cry from earlier predictions that placed the state’s impact on the county budget at more than $20 million.

To meet the $33.8 million budget deficit, commissioners directed all county department managers to submit 10 percent reduction plans by July 29 to help identify areas in which additional savings might be achieved.

While an overall 10 percent reduction is not necessary to meet the estimated additional $2.5 million legislative impact on the $311 million general fund budget, this planning is necessary because of the use of $9.75 million in one-time fund balances to make up for the economic deficit. In addition, departmental plans will provide options for the county commissioners as they deliberate on where additional reductions shall occur.

The board also took the following action at its meeting Tuesday:

• Proclaimed July 2011 as Recreation and Parks Month joining the National Recreation and Park Association. The national association encourages recreation facilities and parks across the country to kick off summer programs, promote outdoor physical recreation and pull together volunteers to make their outdoor space a thriving center of community activity.

• Accepted Donation to Volunteer Program. The board gratefully accepted a $500 donation from Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin to fund the county’s volunteer program, which identifies, promotes and recruits for volunteer opportunities in the county. The program is a partnership between Human Resources and Community Relations, and is headed by a volunteer coordinator who is a volunteer herself. The county will be kicking off its inaugural event to recruit volunteers for two new programs: Sleep Safe Baby Campaign volunteers (for Social Services) and Companionship volunteers (for Public Guardian). The county’s volunteer program was established with no funding. Donated funds will be used for such things as offsetting the cost of printing informational materials, providing volunteers with tools to do their work and recognizing volunteers.
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