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County back to budget-cutting mode

Earlier reports that Nye County would be able to avoid layoffs and further cuts appear to have been premature.

County Manager Pam Webster told the County Commission on Monday that officials are struggling to close a $1.49 million general fund budget deficit after two potential revenue streams discussed earlier this month have yet to materialize.

Deeper cuts to services, a hiring freeze and a 4.62 percent budget reduction by departments which could include job cuts will be reviewed before the commissioners May 29, three days before the final budget is due to the state. The 2016 fiscal year starts July 1.

Deeper cuts to services could include $65,000 to veterans services, $150,000 to administrative costs, $528,000 to emergency management and $338,000 to animal control. The cuts to the two latter programs would effectively end those services, Webster said.

Potential revenue that could have prevented deeper cuts to county services and staff will not come in time to immediately impact the next budget, Webster said.

A state audit of Round Mountain Gold that could have brought the county $1.3 million is being appealed, and a service contract through the Nye County Sheriff’s Office has not been finalized, Webster said.

That leaves the fiscal year 2016 general fund revenues at $30.8 million against $32.3 million in proposed expenses. The general fund pays for the county’s day-to-day operations and activities not covered by proprietary funds or special revenue, such as grants and special taxes.

The general fund budget does, however, reflect the reductions approved by County Commissioners in March, including cuts to senior nutrition, animal shelters, planning, Nye County Sheriff’s Office, and other departments cut expenses by $1.5 million. Another $662,000 was cut from the juvenile probation office, agriculture extension and the Amargosa Valley and Beatty health clinic.

However, those reductions were offset by 4 percent increases in health insurance premiums, a 2.25 percent increase in contributions to the public employees retirement system for nonpublic safety personnel, and step increases for certain union county employees.

Webster said the majority of the cost is driven by employee salaries, benefits, and services and supplies number, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the general fund budget.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said some departments such as planning are already at bare minimum staffing.

“There’s certain departments that I really think we’re at the bottom of where we can be,” Schinhofen said. “Our choices are limited.”

General fund revenues are down from $32.6 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, and $33.4 million in fiscal year 2014, due to the continued decrease in property and sales tax revenues. The property tax share for the general fund is projected at $11.7 million for fiscal year 2016, down from the $12.2 million projected last year. The sales tax is projected at $11.1 million, down from the $11.9 million projected for last year.

The general fund is mostly financed by property taxes, sales tax, business licenses, franchise fees and county fees.

Schinhofen said revenue boosts could come from the medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facilities opening during the next fiscal year, but that can’t be counted on yet.

“Today we have to go on what we have in front of us,” Schinhofen said. “Some of the figures will be hard to take.”

The general fund is part of the overall $76.2 million budget for fiscal year 2016, which includes proprietary funds and other government revenues such as gas taxes.

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