THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT SEVERAL KEY BILLS GRINDING THRU THE LEGISLATURE DIED….THE BAD NEWS IS THERE WILL LIKELY BE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE AND THEY WILL RESURFACE AS PART OF OTHER BILLS. NOT UNLIKE RETIRING COUNTY SENIOR MANAGEMENT….GONE ONE DAY REINCARNATED ON THE PAYROLL THE OTHER!
AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY ABOUT THE Q3 BUDGET REVIEW……REALLY.
By Nicole Barde
You can find the agenda packet HERE and County Manager Pat Whitten’s summary HERE. If you want to listen to the meeting you can find the recording HERE.
During Staff updates Bum Hess the county’s lobbyist or Government Affairs Manager depending on where you look, came in to give an update on a few of the key bills at the Nevada Legislature that were of interest to Storey County. He said that approximately 1000 bills made it thru the April deadline and about 27 were killed at that time. There is a second round in May. A few key bills of interest to Storey were the V&T Commission Bill which passed 21-0, the bill requiring body cameras on our police also passed…..finding the money for it is still an issue. The “impact fee” aimed at charging Storey County for the infrastructure impact that TRI has on other counties was defeated. The diesel tax was also defeated and was killed in the senate. Pat Whitten and Commissioner Jack McGuffey both commented that although the bill as written did not pass that it will be rewritten by NACO ( County association) so that the TYPE of diesel is clarified and the bill will be resubmitted. I guess that they don’t understand what “NO MORE TAXES” means. Pucker up.
Bum went on to say that although many bills die in the first round that they can be resuscitated and come back as “zombies” in the second round as part of other bills. I think that we need to be vigilant and look to see where these things will pop up again. It would not surprise me to see the Sunny Hills folks (Garret Gordon and Mr. Zee) try and get that Washoe/Storey boundary line adjustment that they wanted a few years ago.
Pat Whitten went on to report that the postal bill (at the federal level) passed by voice vote in the Oversight Committee and that it had to go thru 2 more committees but that the Trump agenda is moving so much thru so fast that the majority of the committee’s time is taken up by those big deals which pushes the progress of the postal bill out in time.
Pat also noted that Nevada’s $96 million surplus will be diverted to K-12 schools,and that AB 398- the electric car tax is dead. This was to tax electric cars since they don’t pay fuel tax which goes for roads and other infrastructure. Pat also said that the Bill aimed at raising the property tax cap is dead.
Just a note…remember, according to Bum dead does not mean dead….it just means waiting for another opportunity to rise from the dead.
Lastly, Pat commented that SB-54 is not a new tax but allows for more flexibility for the use of the 1/4 cent infrastructure tax. As it stands now, that money can only be used on valid infrastructure projects as defined thru NRS. Pat couched the intent of this bill by saying that in tough economic times the “ax” tends to fall first on social services, such as the Senior Center or Community Chest and that adding flexibility to the use of the infrastructure tax monies would offset those cuts.
SIDENOTE- Well THAT certainly got my attention and Shawn Griffins as well. I am the chair of the Senior Center Board and any cut in funding directly affects our ability to feed people. It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen. So another source of revenue for us is a good thing…………..or is it?
If the Infrastructure Fund is for infrastructure and the tax was voted on by voters FOR infrastructure then…..shouldn’t the voters have a say in how those funds are used if different than the intended purpose? I mean…if you’re going to spend it on other stuff…..why call it an Infrastructure fund?
Also, if the bill is written so that the ONLY flexibility allowed is to fund social services in tight budget times then maybe OK, but I don’t think that the bill is that specific nor does it guarantee that social services would get any funding, it allows for other uses for those funds. Gee…..isn’t that what the Fed did with our Social Security fund?
But I digress………….
Congratulations to Shawn Griffin and the Community Chest. They secured over $1 million dollars for Phase 2 construction and the groundbreaking will be on May 22nd. I know how hard this was to accomplish and the sense of pride (and relief!) That Shawn and all of the Community Chest employees and board must feel.
A representative from the Canyon GID, which services Lockwood’s utility/water infrastructure, reported that they were trying to work with FEMA to get funding to do the needed repairs on the various culverts and bridges taken out by the January/February events. He also noted that the river was currently only 3 feet under the bridge and rising fast. There was some discussion that the county would look to see if their own insurance can help with the costs so that the GID would shoulder 75% and the county could kick in 25% of the expenses. This was done in 2002 when a similar event caused substantial damage.
Dean Haymore, Community Development Director, talked about the need for a great deal of work on infrastructure and mitigation projects around the county (i.e. bridge replacements, roads, the chimneys on the courthouse)
Pat Whitten’s update included a statement that he read in to the record regarding the process that he went thru to try and find a replacement for retiring Dean Haymore, Community Development Director. That job is the biggest job in the county and Dean has done it for many years as it has grown and I know that he has basically lived out at TRI these last several years to “get ‘er done”. In his statement Pat outlined some of the options that are being looked at to fill Dean’s role. This includes outsourcing parts of the job, re-organizing the department, combining some of the functions or reconfiguring other organizations to take on some of the tasks. During this statement he said that retiring Fire Chief Gary Hames has started his own Consulting Business (Battle Born Consulting) and will, upon commission approval, be contracting with the county to take on some of the Community Development tasks. Additionally that after his retirement that Dean Haymore would also be coming back as a consultant to take on tasks that he used to perform while working for the county.
Later on the agenda the Commission approved the contract for Mike Nevin dba All Comstock LLC, recently retired former Public Works Director to continue to work on the VC and Gold Hill Wastewater Improvement Project.
SIDENOTE- Pat talked about the vast institutional knowledge that these men have and that it is a benefit to the county not to lose it. OK, I get that and I have been in similar situations where I have had to bring back a former employee “content expert” to help out on a project. However, the need to repeatedly bring back former employees to do the core function of an organization is a sign of having no bench strength and a lack of effective organizational structure. Talk about zombies………….no one at the top seems to actually leave the payroll. I mean Bum left as Commissioner then became a lobbyist for the school district and the county as well as the general contractor for all building projects for the school district. They all reincarnate as consultants to the county.
But I digress………….
Lastly Hugh Gallagher, County Comptroller, gave the third quarter budget update. You can find the document he reviewed HERE.
First let me say that I have been doing budgets for many, many years…..little ones, big ones and REALLY big ones. And although government accounting lives on its own planet it does have numbers in it and those numbers are universal. I say this because I can’t make heads nor tails out of the document that Hugh produced for the update. It is nothing like I’ve ever seen before and it’s not even like anything I’ve seen from the county before. It made no sense to me because so much was missing from it. It’s like the time I gave my mother my so-so 5th grade report card…missing the second page where the nun said she wanted to see my mother immediately. But I digress…..
I’ll just go thru the categories:
It shows that revenues have increased from 2015 thru 2017…I can only assume it’s thru Q3 2017.
It shows that expenses have been flattish since 2015 and that the net (revenues minus expenses) for 2017 to date is $ 2.1 Million to the good.
What it is missing is the balance on the general fund over the same time periods. Is the county growing the fund or depleting it?
It states that Q3 is at 90% of the budgeted revenues, where 75% would be the norm and this is good. Either the county had some bluebird surprises come in, they sandbagged or they don’t know how to forecast.
This is followed by the statement that business related revenues continue to increase. It then lists only the business related line items. Where are the rest of the revenue sources and are they as good?
There is no total on this sheet for where we stand on expenditures but I think Hugh said it was at around 53% of budget where 75% would be the norm. So, we are under on expenses….typically a good thing. He noted however that many of the expenses from the January/February winter event were not yet in and that this number would change. So….about how much does he think is still out there and if you add it to what’s on the books where are we?
The departments who were over the 75% in expenses were:
-Community Development at 87%- storm related and will get some reimbursement
-District court at 97% -criminal cases not foreseen
-Community Relations at 85%-looks to be a payables timing issue…it will even up
-Communications at 77%- storm related, set up of the command center
-IT at 87%-had a catastrophic breakdown and had to repair and purchase substantial equipment
-Comptroller at 81%- for professional services
SPECIAL REVENUE FUNDS
This has percent to budget for both revenues and expenses off to the side in this format xx%/yy% . The first number is revenue the second is expense. I really have nothing to say about this one. It’s one hot mess. Also, where ARE the Infrastructure and Capital Projects list approved for 2017 and how are we doing with those items?
Sorry Hugh, love ya but this document and report is a lazy, sloppy, obfuscated and incomprehensible mess.