City of Reno’s latest budget recommendations strike balance between fiscal stability and public safety
The City of Reno's second Budget Workshop will be held this morning starting at 9 a.m. in the Reno City Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall.
Staff will present (see presentation here) a recommended budget for Fiscal Year 15 meant to put the City of Reno on solid financial ground by way of paying off the $3.7 million City Hall debt and securing reserve levels that will be higher than the City has seen since 2008. Projected fund balance (reserves) for FY 15 will be greater than 7 percent, an increase over FY 13, which was at 4.3 percent.
“By reducing debt and increasing reserves, we are presenting a financially stable budget for the City of Reno,” says Kate Thomas, Director of Office of Management and Budget. “In order to strike the appropriate balance between fiscal stability and public safety, we are recommending that a total of 17 firefighter positions be covered by the general fund.”
Some of the highlights of today’s Budget Workshop presentation are as follows. The items are listed under the corresponding priorities that have been established by City Council.
Priority: Provide Safe and Livable Neighborhoods
At the initial Budget Workshop that took place on April 23, a budget plan was presented that would provide the ongoing funding necessary to retain 15 firefighters. Two additional firefighter positions are proposed to be added to the General Fund, taking that number up to 17, therefore reducing the number of layoffs to a maximum of 33 (see background on SAFER grant below).
In addition, Council will consider approval of a resolution authorizing an early retirement program for Reno Fire Department (RFD) personnel to minimize the number of layoffs. RFD employees with 15 or more years of service would be eligible for the buyout program (a one-time payout of $20,000, per retiree).
“It is important to note that separation with City employees is not taken lightly,” says Andrew Clinger, Reno City Manager. “Fire Chief Michael Hernandez and his staff have taken an active role in the transition plan for the remaining affected employees, finding job openings in area and regional fire departments.”
To date, affected City of Reno firefighters have been informed of openings at fire departments in cities such as North Tahoe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Boise. Positions within the Reno Police Department were also opened up to Reno firefighters.
Also under the “Safe and Livable Neighborhoods” Council priority is the Downtown Pride Program. Initiatives of the $143,000 ongoing program involve improving the physical appearance of downtown through enhanced cleaning efforts, increasing resident and visitor comfort levels with enhanced staff presence, encouraging new and existing downtown property owners with new property maintenance standards, and better connecting downtown to the University of Nevada, Reno through open communication and involvement.
Priority: Provide Efficient and Responsive City Services
In an effort to boost internal efficiencies, staff is undergoing a core services evaluation. Utilizing a budget of $100,000, staff is evaluating two departments specifically: Parks, Recreation, and Community Services (PRCS) and Public Works. A result of the project will be recommended improvements in areas such as staffing and service delivery, including a review of fleet services.
Priority: Promote a Sustainable and Vibrant Economy
The City of Reno Fee Schedule is evaluated annually. A staff evaluation of like jurisdictions (Las Vegas, Henderson, Sacramento, etc.) found that the City of Reno’s community development fees are higher than comparable communities. Based on this premise, recommendations are to decrease fee rates in the areas of planning and engineering. Community development is also proposing a $500 fee for a Medical Marijuana Establishment Zoning Verification Letter.
Priority: Enhance Communications and Community Engagement
ThinkReno 2035, a two-year project slated for July 1, 2014 through November 2016, consists of building a strategic plan for the city’s future. Staff believes the timing is right, community interest and need is great, and there is an appetite for collaboration among regional leadership. Staff will seek approval of $150,000 in funding.
Various community inputs, data inputs and economic inputs make up the community engagement and visioning process. Combined with the strategic and master plans, these inputs will result in future amendments and updates to the development code, while also setting the broader vision for the organization and community as a whole.
The adoption of the budget will occur at a tentative budget hearing on May 20 at 3 p.m. in the Council Chambers. The hearing will further cover the fee schedule as well as the Special Assessment District and tax rate adoption.
Background on SAFER grant:
On April 7, 2014 the City of Reno was informed by FEMA that its 2013 SAFER grant application would not be awarded due to funding limitations. The City’s 2013 application was for a two-year period, July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016, which would have provided funding for the salaries and benefits for 50 current Reno Fire Department (RFD) personnel in an annual amount of $5.6 million. Currently, these 50 grant funded firefighters are being funded through the 2011 SAFER grant program, which expires on June 30, 2014.