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January 25, 2012
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Washoe County commissioners recommend budget freeze

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Washoe County Commission on Tuesday approved in a 4-1 vote (Kitty Jung dissenting) to expand on a hiring freeze in an effort to help close the county’s remaining $6.8 million budget gap for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to a county press release.

The freeze would be subject to exceptions as approved by the county manager or the commissioners. The county’s fiscal year 2011-12 budget included $11.6 million in labor cost reductions, according to the county. Voluntary labor concessions by some labor groups to date totaled $4.8 million, bringing the remaining needed reduction to $6.8 million.

During a presentation for the Commissioners, Finance Director Sheri Mendez explained the freeze takes into account that departments currently have 140 funded, vacant positions.

“Holding these positions vacant could result in up to $2 million in salary savings between now and the end of the fiscal year,” Mendez said during the meeting.

Three additional options presented to meet the current budget deficit included additional cuts to department operating budgets, further use of limited reserves, and implementation of the 1 percent Governmental Service Tax on the depreciated value of motor vehicles.

Departmental budgets have been reduced by more than 50 percent in some cases, such as Parks and Libraries, and additional cuts will have critical impacts on service delivery to citizens, according to the press release.

In comments to the County Commission, Sheriff Mike Haley reported that the loss of 141 positions in the past four years has left his office with a ratio of patrol officers that is below 1 per thousand population, which is far below national and western averages.

“We realize there have been significant salary savings already and we also recognize some positions have to be filled,” said County Manager Katy Simon. “We can’t meet mandates without filling some of those job vacancies. However we need to move forward and plan through the end of the fiscal year, and this freeze will give us the flexibility to do that.”

According to the press release, Jung cited her preference for using county reserves rather than further impacts on employees and service levels.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 25, 2012 04:08PM Published Jan 25, 2012 04:07PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.