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Decisions on county pay increases, job openings delayed

Nye County won’t be able to fill three deputy positions in the Sheriff’s Office and several other vacancies across the county due to the budget woes, officials said Tuesday.

County Manager Pam Webster said as part of a reorganization, the county saved enough money to be able to support five positions, but is looking to fill only three at the moment.

“We promoted five sergeants, and these three positions are back filling three of those sergeant positions,” she said.

If approved now, the positions won’t fill until Oct. 1 and there’s $29,000 savings on each one of them, according to Webster.

“We have a budget challenge to meet before there’s ever any money that’s going to be transferred to stabilization fund,” Webster said. “We have to underrun the budget to transfer money into the stabilization fund. What we had is the challenge to make the budget match what we have authorized its vending by covering these reductions to the budget, so it won’t be a transfer motion,” she said.

But until there’s an actual underrun to the budget, Webster said the county is reducing the budget and offsetting the goal within the budget to balance it.

“I agree with saving the positions, the savings is what I’m talking about,” she said. “The saving from the filling other positions will go to meet our goals, the $500,000 goal we still had to balance the budget. And then after that, if we continue to save past that point, then there would have actual dollar savings that could go the stabilization fund.”

However, Webster also pointed to some of the potential revenue sources such as the medical marijuana sales tax and Yucca Mountain funding.

County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said hiring when the county doesn’t have any money to pay was a “really poor time.”

“Potentially, we have a lot of opportunities coming our way, when those opportunities are realized, that’s a great time to get people on, because you have some reasonable future expectation income,” she said. “Right now, we don’t.”

General fund revenues are projected at $32.4 million for fiscal year 2016, 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 was projected at $11.7 million for fiscal year 2016, down from the $12.2 million projected last year. The sales tax was projected at $11.1 million, down from the $11.9 million projected for last year.

Tuesday’s decision didn’t sit well with Sheriff Sharon Wehrly and some of the community members at the meeting.

“We predicated, everything that we are doing, to increase our footprint on the ground for public safety,” Wehrly said. “All we are doing is trying to fulfill what we have provided to you. We have to have supervision, we are taking it to the very lowest level we can. We can’t run a public entity and provide services unless we have those feet on the ground.”

Resident Greg Dann urged that public safety needs be considered differently than those of other departments.

“That should be under a special (section), treated differently,” Dann said. “I don’t like that we are not helping sheriff’s department do sheriff’s work.”

County officials expressed concern that the county is already experiencing a shortfall for the fiscal year that started July 1. Commissioner Dan Schinhofen proposed to bring the discussion back in September.

“And that way, we have a little more clear picture on what we have,” he said.

Board members also postponed filling two vacant positions in the assessor’s office including one in Tonopah. One vacant court bailiff position in district court also remained vacant, following the discussion.

“You can not promise these people a future and give them a job and turn around and lay them off because the money didn’t come in,” Wichman said. “That is not right. It’s just not right.”

Board members also decided not to increase salaries for six elected county officials that would total approximately $15,000 across the board, as they cited potential shortfalls in 2016 as well as current and past budget cycles.

Wages had been frozen across the state for the elected positions of sheriff, district attorney, county clerk, county assessor, recorder and treasurer. However, the Nevada Legislature passed a Senate bill this year that gave the county the discretion to increase that pay. The six positions’ pay has been frozen since fiscal year 2011.

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