The SCAC met Thursday evening at the Larry D. Johnson Community Center in Sparks and highlighted its first meeting of the year with a presentation from City of Sparks Financial Services Director Jeff Cronk. Cronk provided the group with a “very preliminary look” at the City of Sparks’ budget, providing incoming revenues for the fiscal years of 2011 and 2012 and projecting the numbers for fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
The data was divided into low, moderate and high revenue scenarios mainly based on three major sources of income: property taxes, sales taxes and permits and licensing. Cronk said he and his team are focusing most closely on the “moderate” outlook.
“All of these components are economy driven and sales tax is by far the hardest to nail down,” Cronk said. “We have given that a lot of thought and I am really anxious to see how the holiday season shapes up.”
Cronk said sales tax revenue has gone up continually but for “very strange reasons” making it the hardest to harness a consistent number. Between auto sales and eating and drinking establishments changing the amount of sales tax the city can collect, Cronk said the projection numbers will vary.
Cronk also informed the SCAC that the city cut back its personnel by about one-third during recessionary times and plans to lay off no more workers during the crafting of the upcoming budget. He said the plan is to find new ways to trim the budget while keeping the status quo.
“We are trying to keep the whole budget process a status quo. Now is not the time to be adding because there are so many things going on that could throw us the other way,” Cronk said. “We are trying to figure out how to cut $2 million in, essentially, a non-personnel way. What we are trying to do is ask better questions. We are asking our staff members how they can do their jobs better and more efficiently and how we can use technology without making a major investment.”
Eddie Bonine, president of the SCAC and longtime Spanish Springs resident, said his committee has gone through about a year-long process of reaching out to the community and making them aware of the city’s plans. With members sitting on the committee from every ward in the city, Bonine said they have tried to reach as many people as possible -- a process the group plans to continue.
“We went through a very long process with this committee a year ago with every department head (from the City of Sparks) coming in and breaking down where they are looking to make cuts and how it would affect potential services,” Bonine said. “That is where our job came in, to go out and talk to as many constituents as we could through surveys, knock-and-greets, Homeowner's Association meetings and then we presented our information to the City Council.”
Bonine said the committee plans to remain focused on budget issues until the passing of the Nevada Legislative session and the final budget is processed by the City of Sparks. He said after the budget issue is completed, the group will tackle any other problems addressed by the community.
“The budget piece is really what we are busy with right now because it is that time, but after that, it could be something with the Parks and Rec,” he said. “Not everybody feels comfortable taking an issue down to the City Council and getting up in front of everyone and speaking on TV, but they can take that information there. Plus, we can take information from the council and take it back to our Homeowner’s Associations and make sure we can get the message out.”
The SCAC has also begun outreach to the Washoe County School District to bring in students from the three Sparks high schools in order to inform the schools of the committee’s findings. Ellen Wilson, Student Body President at Reed High School, attended her first meeting Thursday and said she is looking forward to being a voice for her school.
“I haven’t gotten much information yet but I am hopefully going to ask my peers about what they want to see, what they want to do after college and maybe how Sparks can help them,” Wilson said.
Bonine said the collaboration from Sparks, Spanish Springs and Reed high schools will greatly increase the number of people they can reach in the community.
“We are going to have student input and then they can go back and report to their councils,” he said. “They have their finger on the pulse of what is going on out there and we really want to involve the students and the kids.”