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County balances budget in last hours

A payment by a mining company following an audit will close a funding gap in Nye County’s final budget starting July 1.

The state is receiving a $3.9 million payment from Round Mountain Gold, $1.3 million of which will go to the county’s general fund, County Manager Pam Webster told County Commissioners on Friday.

“That will enable us to balance our budget for (fiscal year) 2016,” Webster said.

Commission Chairperson Lorinda Wichman said that Round Mountain Gold reversed a previous decision to appeal the state’s finding.

“Round Mountain Gold chose to take this path and not appeal simply for the sake of the county,” said Wichman, who was a government affairs representative for Round Mountain Gold before being elected to the commission.

The funding helped close a $1.49 million general fund budget days before the final budget’s deadline on June 1. The county left a May 18 budget hearing looking at deeper cuts to services, a hiring freeze and a 4.62 percent budget reduction by departments which could have included job cuts.

Webster said those potential reductions will not be necessary at this time, but payment from Round Mountain Gold is a one-time payment that will not be available again.

“We need to incorporate some practices that we’ve been doing, sustain them through (2016),” Webster said.

This would include reviewing each position before hiring and reduction of budget when vacant positions are filled at a lower level. Webster said the county has seen budget reductions of $640,000 through that practice in the current budget ending June 30.

Webster also encouraged the commission to adopt a practice of delaying the hiring of positions 90 days to save more funding. Such a practice would have saved the county $1.2 million over two budget cycles starting in 2013. She also encouraged the adoption of a formal justification process for positions that become open.

The county submitted a $32.4 million general fund budget Monday. 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 is mostly financed by property taxes, sales tax, business licenses, franchise fees and county fees.

The general fund budget reflects 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.

While the funding from Round Mountain Gold materialized at the 11th hour, a potential service contract through the Nye County Sheriff’s Office did not. Webster told the commissioners she heard the contract that could have brought the county a few million dollars was not forthcoming.

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 part of the overall $73.8 million budget for fiscal year 2016, which includes proprietary funds and other government revenues such as gas taxes.

“This windfall is a blessing,” Webster said. “It has given us the opportunity to balance this budget. But I think we have to be very much mindful of the fact we still have a long way to go to a sustainable budget.”

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