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Nye County approves final budget

The Nye County Commission held its final hearing on the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget on May 29, unanimously approving the budget as presented by Nye County Comptroller Savannah Rucker that morning.

At the same meeting, the commission also took the first major steps toward addressing what has been described as an alarming financial liability, that of the county’s Other Post-Employment Benefits program.

Other Post-Employment Benefits provide medical insurance coverage for former Nye County employees, including health, dental and vision, once they retire. With over 200 current retirees receiving these benefits, the cost to the county in the last fiscal year was more than $1.6 million. In fiscal year 2017-2018, these retiree health benefits represented a massive $65 million liability for the county and that number was set to keep increasing unless some sort of action was taken.

The establishment of trust funds specifically for funding the health insurance benefits was the start of the solution, Rucker stated.

The commission voted unanimously to create these new funds, not only for Nye County but also for the various other entities it governs, such as Pahrump, Beatty and Gabbs.

At the budget hearing on May 29, Rucker explained that there had been several changes made the tentative version of the Nye County budget that was approved in late April, including the addition of the new Nye County Other Post-Employment Benefits trust fund.

The trust fund will be funded through the existing county contributions to the health benefits program, as well as other potential sources, such as savings from employment position freezes.

“We are re-instituting position freezes for six weeks,” Rucker detailed. She explained that she would be bringing forward an agenda item to authorize the transfer of any money saved via those position freezes from the given department’s budget and into the new trust fund, as a mechanism of pre-funding the retiree health benefits program.

“When we freeze a position for six weeks, it creates a funding source that we can move out of that department into the OPEB (health benefits) fund and that is how departments will be contributing to help offset this liability,” Rucker informed.

“Hopefully that way the number doesn’t get any bigger,” Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig remarked, to which Rucker replied, “Yes, that’s the plan. And we are taking additional action to help reduce that number and will bring forward some solutions. It’s not something we are going to be able to tackle overnight but it’s a heck of a start.”

“I’m glad we’re addressing it, and everybody is being part of that solution,” Commissioner Leo Blundo stated with Commissioner Lorinda Wichman adding, “Hear, hear!”

Other changes made from the tentative version of the budget included an increased contingency amount and an increase in the amount of the operating transfer out of the general fund and into the capital improvements fund, Rucker informed.

In the budget summary provided with the agenda item information, Rucker outlined projected total revenues for fiscal year 2019-2020 to come in at roughly $42.8 million. Calculated with the end fund balance for the current fiscal year which was estimated at $10.7 million, this gives Nye County an estimated $53.5 million in financial resources.

The budget allows for approximately $44 million in expenditures, including the more than $1 million transfer from the general fund to the capital improvements fund, leaving the county with a projected end fund balance at the finish of fiscal year 2019-2020 of $9.3 million.

To review the entire budget package as presented visit www.nyecounty.net and click on the Meeting Center link. The documents are included in the agenda for the May 29 commission meeting.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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