Few new hires in county budget | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Few new hires in county budget

Susie Vasquez

MINDEN – Douglas County’s $128 million budget may be balanced, but there’s little room for hiring new employees.

Caught between budget shortfalls and Douglas County’s burgeoning population, county commissioners last week approved just five new positions in their tentative budget for the next fiscal year: four in community development and a sergeant for the sheriff’s office.

The department requested eight deputy sheriffs, two investigators, and a full-time and a part-time clerk.

In addition to staff shortfalls, Sheriff Ron Pierini said the jail deals with 94 prisoners a day, up 33 percent from last year.

“We need to expand our facility. Liability issues and the safety of both the inmates and personnel are crucial,” he said.

County officials must also come to grips with the increasing drug use in Douglas County, as well as robbery, domestic violence and traffic issues, Pierini said.

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“Traffic is a huge problem, the number one complaint,” he said. “We have three major traffic accidents a day in north Carson Valley.”

Commissioners discussed the possibility of more police officers generating more revenues through traffic tickets, an idea Pierini discouraged.

“We can’t generate a set number of dollars. That’s not what we do,” he said. “But if we have more patrol officers, they will write tickets.”

Several other positions went unfilled, ranging from staff in the district attorney’s office to the comptroller office. The situation prompted a stern warning from Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed.

“We can’t just put our fingers in one hole,” she said. “The Legislature has not been kind to us and things are going to get tougher.”

Commission chairman Kelly Kite said the budget is tentative. The assessor and clerk’s offices are still working on projected revenue numbers and Kite said he hopes more funding can be found for personnel.

“We’ve been very careful about adding new employees for some time, but it’s getting to the point where several departments need at least one or two new people,” he said.

To help bolster the budget, commissioners tentatively approved an increase in building permit fees to cover the costs of the four new positions in the Community Development Department. The commission will consider the increase again in May.

If approved, the proposed 18.7 percent increase for residential construction fees, together with another 16.67 percent for commercial, would be effective July 1. Projected revenues are estimated at $240,000, according to county officials.

Personnel services, which includes wages, salaries and benefits, represent the largest single category of expenditures in the budget and are generally the predominant expense of department budgets. Benefits account for almost $35 million, or 44.6 percent of total expenditures, county officials said.

Personnel services eat up about 78 percent of Douglas County’s general fund revenues.