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County eyes wage reduction to battle next year’s deficit
by Joshua H. Silavent
Feb 15, 2012 | 701 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — As Washoe County works to close its budget deficit of $6.8 million for the current fiscal year through a hiring freeze, commissioners on Tuesday turned their attention to resolving an estimated $16.8 million shortfall looming in the next budget cycle.

A proposed $9.9 million reduction in wages and benefits for county employees represents the single largest chunk identified to help close the 2012-13 deficit.

County officials had sought $11.6 million in labor cost savings for the current fiscal year, but only $4.8 million in voluntary concessions from public employee unions have been made thus far, prompting the current hiring freeze and likely increasing the salary and benefits cuts proposed for next year’s budget.

“In the absence of negotiated wage and benefit reductions … the (fiscal year 2012-13) budget has been projected with the restoration of wage and benefits reductions currently in place,” county staff reports read. “While some agreed to voluntary concessions during the year, all concessions with the exception of juvenile services and management expire at year-end. Therefore, county departments will need to plan for additional budget reductions in order to achieve a balanced budget …”

Commissioners directed staff to develop two scenarios for the departmental budget reductions. The first option would include across-the-board reductions of 4.5 percent for all departments. The second option would have the reduction targets applied to departments based on the distribution of various labor groups within departments.

The remaining cuts to balance the budget will come from two primary proposals: reducing capital projects, accrued benefits and contingency funding by $3.6 million; and $3 million in additional reductions for OPEB (post-employment benefits) funding.

Declining tax revenues are largely responsible for the estimated budget deficit next year. For example, preliminary projections forecast a 4.18 percent drop in property tax revenues, the county’s single largest revenue source.
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