Budget shortfall shrinks, cuts slashed

Nye County will only have to cut its department budgets 2.75 percent this year instead of 5 percent, due to some additional revenues, County Manager Pam Webster told commissioners during a special teleconference Friday, which marked the end of the fiscal year.

The estimated shortfall was reduced from $1.7 million to $887,000, which will be taken out of the emergency endowment fund from the Payment Equal to Taxes received by the county for the defunct Yucca Mountain Project. If any additional revenues are received they would need to repay the endowment fund. The county will have a hiring freeze for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and any new hires have to come up for commission approval.

County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen asked about making new hires part-time without benefits and asked about more privatization of county services. The county could look at other uses for the Tonopah jail, he said, but quickly clarified that doesn’t mean the jail would be closed immediately.

The additional revenue includes:

— $175,000 more in Payment in Lieu of Taxes from the federal government for the value of public lands that could normally be taxed;

— $38,000 in savings on liability insurance because of a good claims history;

— A $300,000 surplus in the Blagg Road settlement from what is being awarded the county and what was spent to repair the road;

— $100,000 in one-time, additional state funding for child support;

— An expected $200,000 from the sale of county land on Calvada Boulevard for an assisted living center.

“I would recommend enacting a hiring freeze with a review of every position that comes forward for evaluation for rehiring and that could also then be a savings back to the endowment fund,” Webster said.

“Over the last few years we’ve cut over 60 employees. I know particularly in the treasurer’s office we have one person here in this office down here, when that person goes on vacation or God forbids that person gets sick for any extended period, the treasurer is the only one running that office or we would close that office. In many departments, we are at the minimum amount to provide the services the people of the county want us to provide,” Schinhofen said.

County Treasurer Richard Billman said he generated $120,000 more per year on the county investments and the annual treasurer’s tax sale this year generated $700,000. But Billman said he is now without the employee who conducts the tax sale, who should be replaced at least by October to prepare for the next tax sale in April 2015.

Commissioner Frank Carbone wanted clarification the county wasn’t calling for the closure of the Tonopah jail at this time.

“This budget does not include the closure of any office or the jail. He was directing me to look at possible alternative uses for the jail,” Webster said.

Commissioner Donna Cox wanted clarification the county wasn’t raising taxes. Webster said the county tax rate will stay the same as it has since 2005; commissioners passed a resolution earlier in the meeting directing the levy of the 2014-15 fiscal year tax rate.

Richard Goldstein shouted from the audience he wanted public comment, as commissioners were halfway through voting on the budget. District Attorney Brian Kunzi said it was up to commissioners’ discretion whether to allow public comment on individual items, the agenda already allows a public comment period at the beginning and end of the meeting.

“You just rammed this through without the public’s comment on anything,” Goldstein said under the final public comment at the end of the 19-minute meeting.

When he asked why the county only received $300,000 from the Blagg Road case, Schinhofen told him that was only the difference between the settlement and the amount spent to repair it.

Goldstein shouted at Schinhofen: “I know you shake your head like I’m a dummy but I’m not. Just remember your election isn’t over yet.”

The proposed budget trims $322,037 out of the general government budget and $334,442 out of the sheriff’s budget, the two major parts of the general fund.