Tough financial decision looms on workforce

Several weeks ago, Robert Switzer was on the Ely City Council agenda for consideration of character, alleged misconduct, professional competence, or physical or mental health as City Administrator.

Although Kurt Carson and Councilman Tony DeFelice voted to eliminate the position, the other three council members — Ernie Flangas, Jolene Gardner and Sam Hanson — voted to keep Switzer’s Administrator position.

Now this week’s agenda has an item from Switzer about the the acceptance of a General Fund Expenditure Reduction Plan that includes a reduction in workforce.

The supporting documentation for this agenda item included a memo from Switzer to all Council members and Mayor Melody VanCamp.

Switzer notes there is an urgent need to reduce expenditures from the General Fund revenues for this fiscal year that ends on June 30. The largest expenditures in the fund are wages and benefits.

So who does this affect? What departments are in the general fund?

The city has 12 departments: Executive Offices (mayor and council), Municipal Court, Clerk/Administration, Finance, City Attorney, Law Enforcement, Fire Department, Public Works, Building Department, Animal Control, Cemetery and Parks.

In Switzer’s report, he notes that with the exception of Public Works and Law Enforcement where there are interlocal agreements in place, the remaining departments have expenditures in wages and benefits.

The report also notes the Parks/Cemetery Department has reduced service needs during the winter season. Parks/Cemetery currently has three employees.  Animal Control is another department that may be covered with a half-time officer and augmented on an as needed basis.

A hiring freeze and a continued look at reduction in expenditures would be considered in light of further analysis.

The financial impact of reducing Animal Control to half-time, a reduction in force in the Parks/Cemetary, and not hiring help this fiscal year is projected to save approximately $50,995.

In the meeting held on Aug. 10,2017  there was discussions to ask city employees to give anonymous  suggestions on how to save money. City Administrator commented “we all know the easiest way to save money is fire people because that’s 80 percent of our budget.”

There is no mention in the report to reduce clerical staff, public works, municipal court or the executive staff’s pay.

The top paying staff for the city fall into the general fund, and none of those are on the list for a reduction in their pay, or the possibility of making them half time employees. Some of the highest paying positions according to Transparent Nevada’s current report included the following:

City Administrator $113, 480.07,

City Attorney, $123,909.08,

City Clerk, $72,284.42

City Inspector, $119,271.00

Utility Clerk,  $52,884.82,

Firefighters pay ranged from, $93,978.00 to $118,646.43. All of these numbers include insurance and benefits, and the firefighters numbers include overtime.

So, why is the lowest paid position of Animal Control being targeted as the first to make half-time? In the past two months of the hiring of a new Animal Control officer, he has not euthanized any animals, he has adopted out several animals, and has begun to write tickets for 1st and 2nd offense issues. This may not be bringing in a lot of money, but it’s another source of revenue.

Maybe a look at what is being spent on outside sources who provide the same or similar services that city employees provide. The city has been paying private counsel for legal representation for the lawsuit with S&S Railroad that began back in 2015. In October, this newspaper reported that a total of $66,000 had been paid out for services from Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schluman & Rabkin Law Offices. The latest numbers from October reveal an additional $13,001.89 for services from October to present.

There was also payments for outside services of an accounting firm. According to all of the records The Ely Times obtained from 2015 to present, $80,000 has been paid to Hinton & Burdick. These are services that include the annual audit and required services such as the financial statements but there are other services the were providing. In just half of this fiscal year, $21,000 has already been paid out to them.

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  1. Bill Heusser says:

    Eliminate city administrator position make the mayor do what she was elected to do. Ely is a small enough an administrator is not financially feasible. Yes a administrator or manager position of a city like Reno makes more sense.

  2. Sounds like the usual top heavy work force and waste of tax player money.

  3. A Nickerson says:

    Some of those numbers are not correct. Such as the city inspector…the city pays less than $60,000 of his pay the other is paid by the county as he covers both the city and the county. Also part of that $119,000 was the city catching up on his PERS benefits that they had not paid correctly. So if those numbers are wrong should we assume the other numbers are correct? The city inspector voluntarily took a 5 percent pay decrease over a year ago while being told by a then sitting city councilman that the Administrator and Attorney would be next. However to date that has not only not happened but they have both received raises. Doesn’t sound right in my opinion.

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