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County departments face more budget cuts
by Joshua H. Silavent
Sep 28, 2011 | 1373 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — The Washoe County Commission on Tuesday approved new general fund budget cuts for many departments to meet an additional $9.4 million in savings needed to balance the current fiscal year budget.

But because these cuts, which largely come in the form of 86 layoffs, won’t be applied until December, the savings for this year only amount to about $4.7 million.

The remaining savings will occur in the 2012-13 fiscal year and beyond.

Cuts vary from department to department, with some having their budgets cut by less than 2 percent while others face a 10 percent reduction.

For example, the county manager’s office will take the full range of cuts while the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office budget will only be slashed by 2 percent.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the sheriff’s office made it out unscathed.

An additional $700,000 will be cut from its budget in addition to about $900,000 already realized from earlier savings. This will result in the elimination of 28 positions, the likely outsourcing of non-mandated court security personnel and a reorganization of the crime lab.

Moreover, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office liability will increase as it reduces services, including delays in processing concealed carry weapons permits, according to Undersheriff Todd Vinger.

The Senior Services Department, though not a general fund agency, will see its budget cut 10 percent, or about $145,000. This will result in voluntary separations from the Senior Law Project and administration staff, according to director Grady Tarbutton.

However, through Medicaid matching funds totaling more than $69,000, the department is able to continue its Daybreak adult alternative nursing home program.

The medical examiner’s office will not face $15,000 in cuts after county commissioners approved supplementing its budget because of the hit it took related to the Reno National Championship Air Races crash.

Meanwhile, the district attorney’s office will have its budget reduced by an extra $43,000, for a total budget reduction of $302,000.

Though county commissioners took steps to begin work on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget, much remains subject to change, and proposals on next year’s budget are not binding at this time, officials said.

Even the current year’s budget is open to future amending.

“Again, lots of ifs, lots of caveats,” County Manager Katy Simon said.

Comment on the latest budget changes poured in from those in attendance Tuesday.

“I fear we have another year or two of the same scenarios,” said Garth Elliott, treasurer of the Sun Valley General Improvement District. “We need to develop the mentality of using interns and volunteers.”

Carla Fells, executive director of the Washoe County Employees Association (WCEA), said she was tired of seeing public workers bear the burden with cuts to benefits and wages, citing numerous concessions WCEA members had taken in recent years.

“Our concessions are to save jobs,” Fells said. “We’re taxpayers, too.”

The move to implement a new round of budget cuts comes at a time when local governments across the country are scrambling for ways to become sustainable.

“We really need to re-size the whole government,” Simon said.

Though county commissioners acknowledged that the latest cuts were not an ideal scenario, with Commissioner Kitty Jung voting against the new reductions, most said it was the best possible solution at this time.

“The cards are all being played face up,” Commissioner David Humke said.
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