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City Council turns eye toward 2012
by Joshua H. Silavent
Aug 28, 2011 | 1731 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SPARKS — Getting the city’s fiscal house in order is nothing if not a time-consuming process. That’s why officials have already begun informal work on the 2012-13 budget.

City Council members and staff met Tuesday to begin outlining strategic goals for the next fiscal year.

The workshop produced a number of interesting developments, beginning with forecasts of next year’s budget deficit.

“I’m fairly sure property tax revenues are going down again in fiscal year 2012/2013 — I just don’t know by how much,” Finance Director Jeff Cronk said in an email.

Cronk is anticipating a property tax revenue loss of between $1 and $3 million.

“That range of revenue loss would stem from property values declining somewhere between 5 to 15 percent citywide,” he said.

“Obviously, that’s a major concern,” Councilman Ed Lawson said.

Of course, property tax depreciations account for only a portion of the possible deficit, as sales tax revenues and expenses have yet to be factored in.

“We’ll get more clarity on the entire picture for next year as the current year progresses,” Cronk said.

However, some things seem quite certain about the challenges the city faces moving into 2012 and beyond.

City officials identified a number of areas related to consolidation of regional services that have proved to be a waste of time.

“Nobody can do it better than Sparks can do it now,” Lawson said, referring to the city’s long-held opposition to consolidation efforts that the Reno and Washoe County governments are currently engaged in.

Lawson said that volunteers can help bridge gaps in government services and that city officials needed to do more to encourage volunteerism in Sparks, including hosting open house sessions and tours of City Hall and the police department.

“It’s more important now than ever to get involved,” Lawson said.

Councilman Ron Smith said he would like to see the city make changes to its Transit Oriented Development (TOD) regulations, which he believes stifle business growth.

“Give the customer a solution, not an excuse,” he said, adding that NOW Foods, which broke ground on a distribution and manufacturing facility on Vista Boulevard last week, almost was kept from expanding its operations due to TOD meddling.

But the ‘do more with less’ mantra that many city officials have adopted in the last year as budget cuts have mounted is becoming more difficult to repeat.

Many city departments have reported that they cannot sustain further cuts.

“Every department is asking for more money,” Councilman Ron Schmitt said.

With the fat trimmed, it seems, cutting the bone comes next. But the city must find a sustainable way forward as the economy remains mired in stagnation.

“We have to find a different way to do business,” Lawson said.
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