Commission schedules public meeting with county employees

County employees and members of the public will get to share their thoughts with the White Pine County Commission on May 4 at 6 p.m. inside the County Courthouse about how to best deal with the budget shortfall the county is facing heading into next fiscal year.

The decision to hold the public meeting came out of the commission’s bi-weekly meeting inside the County Library on Wednesday. The well attended meeting also included presentations by different county department’s include the sheriff’s office about why the board’s planned cuts would be detrimental to public safety and quality of life.

The board discussed different ways to remedy the shortfall in revenues, with much of the discussion referring back to whether or not the commission should impose a “franchise fee” of 1 percent annually increasing tax on electricity like the City of Ely does up to 3 percent. The “franchise fee” or “franchise tax” as some of the members of the board referred to it was a revenue source the county implemented from 2007 through 2012 before it sunset and was shot down by the previous commission before the election last year.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled to take place on May 18 inside the County Library at 9 a.m.

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  1. Mike Coster says:

    When a government spends more money than it has in revenues, it creates a deficit: A deficit is overspending. How does the government make up for the missing revenue? It takes money from its savings account called a fund balance. Those savings are kept for capital improvements, like building a pool or jail, or for making up for a shortfall in regular expenses of operating the government (things like salaries, computers, gasoline, electrical bills, etc.)

    The 2015 deficit, the budget year we are in now that ends June 30, is forecast to be about $840,000. As the Commission started the budget process for 2016, which starts on July 1, four Commissioners (myself included) suggested that we should limit the 2016 deficit to not more than $400,000. I supported the maximum of $400,000 deficit because it would “turn the ship around” in two years — cut the deficit in half this year and anticipate a balanced budget in the next year. But, after two long budget sessions, the PRELIMINARY budget was turned in to the State with a $602,000 deficit, and that included cutting most employees to a 35 hour work week (and cutting their pay by 12.5%), a plan to reduce health insurance benefit costs, cutting the pay of non-hourly employees (mostly department heads) by 10%. I voted against the preliminary budget because 1/ it had more than $400,000 in deficit spending and 2/ cut public employee hours and resulting services by 12.5%.

    In the one meeting after the preliminary budget was turned in, earlier this week, we voted unanimously (I think) to NOT reduce the working hours of any public safety part of government. That meant adding back in 5 hours for patrol deputies, detectives, and judicial law clerk work hours. And it results in a even larger deficit. But, so far, we have not found other places to cut spending.

    Why is that a problem? Because, the higher the deficit spending DURING the year, the smaller the savings/fund balance is at the end of the year. Keeping an unrestricted fund balance of at least 6 months of spending “in the bank” is a good practice, and until last year White Pine County had that. But no longer. And the 2016 deficit will reduce that balance even lower. And, worse, two or more years of declining fund balance is one of the conditions that allows the State Department of Taxation to hold hearings and consider taking over the finances of a county. NRS 354.685(z). Now, I don’t expect that the state will be knocking on our door this year, but they will have the authority to do that if we have another year of deficit spending.

    Why is this happening? Lots of reasons, of course. But, mostly because revenues for the county are declining, but spending has not been reduced the same amount. It is normal to have fluctuations, with deficits one year and surpluses the next. So, some years you draw down your savings, and other years you build it up. But, a series of years with deficits threatens the financial stability of the county. White Pine County was the first County to go into Severe Financial Emergency and have supervision by the State Department of Taxation. We don’t want to be the second!

    What is the solution? There is no ONE solution. The Commissioners have a variety of options and, even where we disagree on HOW to reduce the deficit, we are working on it. Should employees be furloughed (given unpaid days off)? Should employees have reduced hours and pay by 12.5%? Should we eliminate some positions altogether so that other positions continue to work regular full-time hours and be paid for that work? Is it really fair (to the resident and employees) to cut most all employees by 12.5% of their pay for a year or more? Should a franchise tax be put in place on electrical bills, and should it be 1%, 3%, 5%? Should sales taxes be increase to keep all county jobs working as they have been? I have my opinion on these questions. Other Commissioners have other answers. All of us are open minded to the views of the community. That is why there is a public meeting focused on the impact on county employees on May 4 at 6:00 p.m. (of course, all public can attend) and a required public hearing on the budget at 9:00 a.m. on May 18.

    If you have an opinion about new taxes, treatment of county employees, or County spending, please attend one of those meetings. Or you can call or write the Commission with your views. Individual Commissioner phone numbers are usually on the opinion page of the Ely Times.

  2. Remind Commissioners Howe and Carson that they were just in Carson City — appearing as “private citizens” trying to disincorporate the City of Ely — testifying that WP County is solvent and everything is hunky dory.

    March 13, 2015 hearing:

  3. Here’s the video of Mr. Howe saying WP County is in great financial shape:

    Skip to 40:20. It’s uploading now. It can also be viewed at

  4. Ely resident says:

    They are going to squeeze every last cent from the residents here, because the stuff that’s being pulled. An example, you pay your city of Ely bill online they charge you a percentage to do so. This is ridiculous. All of this is. Let’s put in another pool.

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