By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — Nye County is looking at a shortfall of $2.66 million in the upcoming fiscal year, as declining revenues due to the economy continue to impact its budget.
The three legs of the stool that comprise 73 percent of the general fund budget — property taxes, net proceeds of mining and consolidated taxes — will drop from $24.4 million to just under $23.2 million, a 5 percent decline, according to a tentative budget presented by county Comptroller Susan Paprocki. She relayed figures from the Nevada Department of Taxation.
“Our revenues are still steadily declining,” Paprocki said.
Property tax collections will drop 13.6 percent from $11.3 million to $9.7 million, but fortunately consolidated taxes, which include mostly sales taxes, will increase from $11.2 million to $11.37 million and the net proceeds of mining are projected to increase from $1.9 million to $2.04 million.
Property taxes for the 2012-13 fiscal year starting July 1 will have dropped 31.2 percent since the 2010-11 fiscal year ending last June 30, 2011, when the county collected $14.2 million, as a sign of the declining economy.
When combined with other funding sources, general fund revenues will drop from $33.45 million to just under $32 million.
Expenditures will increase from $33.06 million to almost $34.36 million, leaving a deficit of almost $2.66 million.
The county could save $3.04 million by not filling vacant positions $1.2 million , no overtime $1.09 million , mandatory furloughs $587,477 and no STEP increases $145,659 , according to Paprocki’s estimates.
“I don’t know how you ever totally discontinue overtime, particularly when 42 percent of your budget is public safety. They don’t get to schedule when there are emergencies,” County Commissioner Joni Eastley said.
“It would be total fiction to say you could live without overtime, especially with the short staffing we have currently,” Paprocki said.
The public safety budget was decreased slightly to $14.3 million, out of the $34.36 million general fund budget. General government costs rose from $10.5 million to $12.12 million. The budget includes a $300,000 contingency.
Paprocki outlined a way to balance the budget, eliminating the almost $2.7 million deficit.
The county would have to negotiate with the unions over the elimination of STEP increases for the next year, which would save $145,659, and a mandatory furlough program for everyone, a savings of $728,885, Paprocki said. She also suggested cutting public safety overtime in half, saving $484,850. The elimination of all overtime, except for public safety, would save $120,100, then there’s the $1.2 million by not filling positions.
Paprocki also directed the commissioners’ attention to services that aren’t mandated by state law, continuing a discussion that took place during last year’s budget debate. That would be senior nutrition, a $238,747 savings, animal control and the animal shelter, $443,515 after $91,000 in revenues are factored in, and veterans’ services, $36.075 after deducting the brothel fees dedicated to that office. Cutting those services weren’t included in her calculations for balancing the budget but for commissioners’ information.
Talk about eliminating veterans’ services was the only item that aroused a question from Commissioner Gary Hollis. County Clerk Sam Merlino said the $38,000 net savings would be about what she spends on printing the list of bills for payment every year.
Commissioner Butch Borasky didn’t have any comments on the tentative budget figures, which were handed out at the meeting.
Paprocki said salaries account for over half the budget, benefits for another 26 percent. Commissioner Dan Schinhofen questioned the increase in salaries from $17.12 million to $17.62 million and the increase in benefits from $8.3 million to $8.9 million. Eastley said the cost of medical insurance has been increasing, though Schinhofen noted Nye County went to a different medical provider last year.
Eastley thought when Nye County gave employees an early retirement buyout in the past years they had to pay for accrued leave. The county will spend less on salaries than the 2010-11 fiscal year, when salaries were $19.6 million, they are $17.62 million for 2012-13, because of the early retirement buyout.
Commissioner Lorinda Wichman only asked about $45,000 in the budget for community support, instead of $15,320. Paprocki said that will go to the county natural resources department.
Paprocki increased the budget for information technology by $100,000 to accommodate prior maintenance agreements with Tyler Technologies. The Buildings and Grounds budget was increased $250,000 due to higher utility costs, she said. A category for other judicial costs was increased to deal with conflict attorneys, Paprocki said, an issue Eastley said she wanted to discuss further with the district attorney.
Eastley said she’s been hearing reports Corrections Corporation of America hasn’t been making its $780,000 annual, guaranteed property tax payment, under their development agreement. Paprocki said they have.
The increases in salaries and benefits in the general fund leave 23 percent left, $7.79 million, for services and supplies, which Eastley said includes utilities, fuel costs and everything else.
Paprocki suggested a budget workshop at the end of April or early May to go over the budget draft. The county should have some reaction from the employee bargaining units by then, she said.
In one of the 23 items on the consent agenda, commissioners without comment, approved an increase in the budget for consolidated taxes for this fiscal year by $326,185, from $10.1 million in the original budget, due to better collections. The sales tax is the primary driver of the consolidated tax. The money was diverted to services and supplies.