In the closing days of the 2009 Nevada legislative session, lawmakers decided to grab more than $14 million from the county this coming fiscal year. Most of the money will be pulled from property tax collections. As a result, areas that will take a financial hit are county savings accounts and capital projects funds. The tax grab will sunset after two fiscal years, but in that time it will pull more than $25 million from the county.
“Some of this was expected and some of it was not,” said county manager Katy Simon in a June e-mail to various county workers.
To meet both the expected and unexpected, the county staff has proposed that they dig $14 million deep into the some county savings accounts. County commissioners were scheduled to vote Tuesday on using the savings to make up for the shortfall. The meeting went late into the evening hours, and at press time the item had yet to come up for a vote.
“It is our intent to look at restricted savings that we have accumulated over the years as a possible way to meet this new deficit challenge before resorting to further cuts in program funding or staffing,” Simon said. “Of course, using restricted savings may put us at some level of risk, just as a family dipping further into their life savings would be at risk but, as we all recognize, these are extraordinary times that require extraordinary, calculated actions.
The county could take $14 million from various savings accounts in 2009-2010 and pull more than $10 million from the same accounts in 2010-2011.
The money in the savings accounts would have provided an added safety net for public health emergencies, like the West Nile virus, as well long-term liability coverage for firefighters and police officers with heart and lung conditions.
The third savings account that the county pulled from holds money accrued for burying utility lines in Incline Village.
County commissioners were warned in staff reports that “use of the restricted savings is a short-term strategy based on calculated risk.”
Cumulative county spending reductions have been about $100 million between the fiscal years 2006-2007 and 2009-2010, according to county spokeswoman Kathy Carter. The most severe cuts are about $47 million, she added, and will come from the 2009-2010 budget.
“The cuts have frozen or eliminated 500 positions,” Simon said. ”The county and our employees have taken painful measures to meet our economic challenges, the impacts of which have been and will continue to be felt by both employees and citizens for years to come.”
The county’s final budget for next fiscal year must be approved and sent on to state officials by June 30.