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Nye County tentative budget approved

Nye County is in the midst of preparing for the coming fiscal year, addressing its tentative budget at a special meeting held Tuesday, April 30.

Following a series of changes made to the version presented by Nye County Comptroller Savannah Rucker, including the approval of a slew of new employment positions, the county narrowly approved the tentative budget with a general fund that looks to spend roughly the same amount that it projects to receive in revenue. The anticipated end fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2020 was pegged at just over $9 million.

Rucker began her budget presentation by explaining that the general fund figures she had put together were conservative projections, aligning closely with what the Nevada Department of Taxation had projected for Nye County for the coming fiscal year.

With those numbers, however, the county would be budgeted to spend more than $1 million over its total revenues for the year. Additionally, Rucker’s original version of the tentative budget did not include any funding for the new employment positions requested by various county departments that morning, requests which totaled more than $1 million in and of themselves.

In order to address the situation, Rucker came prepared with an active budget spreadsheet, in which she was able to demonstrate how different changes, such as increases in certain revenues or the approval of new hires, would affect the overall budget.

“This is where the board gets to make decisions as to whether the revenues were too conservative,” Rucker said.

She noted that typically, the county sees 2.6 percent higher property tax revenue than projected by the Nevada Department of Taxation, and consolidated tax is generally 7 percent higher. The commission suggested she increase the tentative budget projections for both, but only by half of the percentages by which the county had historically exceeded the department of taxation’s projections.

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman jumped in to note that Federal In Lieu of Tax payments had been approved by Congress and the county would see a total of $3.1 million from that, rather than Rucker’s estimate of $2.5 million, which helped increase total revenues even further.

The Nevada Department of Taxation had also recommended that net proceeds be moved out of the general fund and into the capital improvements fund, because of the volatile nature of that revenue source. Rucker had budgeted that transfer at $1.6 million. The commission asked that she reduce that to $1.4 million, adding another $200,000 to the general fund.

Once these adjustments were made, the commission then delved into the work of deciding which of the many new hire requests they would grant for fiscal year 2020. There were 16 position requests that would need to be funded out of the general fund and the commission voted to approve six of these, at a cost of approximately $335,000.

New positions ultimately approved in the tentative budget included those for imaging and records management in the administration department, a part-time file clerk for the clerk’s office, a GIS administrator in the Information Technology department, a part-time court bailiff in Beatty Justice Court, and two positions for the sheriff’s office, a school resource officer and a financial assistant.

In addition, the commission voted to approve the request from Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker for an increase in pay for the bailiffs that serve that court.

“There was also an approval to rectify pay disparity between bailiffs for the courts and other Category 2 POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) certified positions,” Rucker explained for the Pahrump Valley Times. “There are 4.5 positions affected and the estimated impact is an increase to general fund expenditures totaling $32,269. This impact is subject to change as it was calculated with a rough estimate at the meeting. The final cost will be presented to the commission at the May 29 meeting where the final budgets will be heard, though we expect it to be within the $30,000 to $40,000 range.”

Three other new positions were approved Tuesday as well, each of which will be paid for out of funds other than the general fund. The first was a secretary for the planning department, to be funded by the county building fund. A senior services manager/senior eligibility specialist was approved as well and will be funded in part by the general and medical indigent fund and in part by the grants fund. Finally, the commission approved a part-time community health support specialist for the Tonopah Health Nurse, to be funded by the health clinic fund.

The special meeting on Tuesday also included an item proposing pay increases for county-elected officials but the Nye County Commission voted that down.

At the conclusion of the nearly seven-hour-long meeting, the tentative budget showed general fund revenue projections of $41.4 million, less the net proceeds transfer. Expenditures were also budgeted at $41.4 million. With the current fiscal year’s end fund balance rolled over into the next fiscal year’s budget, the county is projected to end fiscal year 2020 with $9.3 million left in its general fund coffers. Nye County Commissioner Debra Strickland made the motion to approve.

“I think this budget is very aggressive,” Commissioner Leo Blundo said before the motion came to a vote. “I think we’re making some very big assumptions and I would have preferred to be on the conservative side and look throughout the year to approve positions on a case-by-case basis.”

Commissioner Donna Cox agreed, stating, “I can see your point, Leo. It is scary.”

Commission chairman John Koenig noted that the tentative budget was just that, tentative and not set in stone. The commissioners could individually review the budget and make suggestions for changes at the final budget meeting. “We need a starting point,” Koenig asserted.

The tentative budget was approved by a 3-2 vote with commissioners Koenig, Wichman and Strickland in favor and commissioners Blundo and Cox against.

Rucker explained that the commission has the authority to modify the budget at the final budget hearing, set for May 29, including all revenues, expenditures, transfers and positions.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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