Commission commits to tourism, but wants to keep library at today’s budget level
The Douglas County Commission prepared a preliminary plan to balance the budget and still fulfill their plan to increase promotion tourism dollars.
On Thursday, the topic drew a crowd of about 90 people concerned with the proposed shift of money in room tax fund, which supports the library, senior services and parks and recreation.
County Manager Dan Holler said the commission needed to commit $200,000 to tourism promotion this year if the $1 million goal within three years was to be reached.
The $200,000 in addition to the projected $136,000 shortfall in revenues, the implementation of a $70,000 employee contract, and inflation increases the total potential deficit is $506,000, he said.
He said the expenditures would have to be cut to balance the budget as any tax initiative in recent times has not been popular with the voters.
Commissioner Steve Weissinger protested taking the expenditure of room tax money to promote tourism from 28 percent to 50 percent in three years, saying he didn’t think it was feasible.
But Commissioner Don Miner said if the county developed separate tax districts for the parks and recreation and the library, then the amount could be achieved.
“If people don’t see a $40 increase on their ad valorem, then the programs go away or are greatly reduced,” he said.
The commission decided to ask voters to approve some form of revenue next year.
“We want to find a revenue that will grow with the community instead of one that is flat or declining,” Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said.
He said the reserve funds would have to be dipped into again to help in the transition until a new revenue source could be found.
Miner disagreed with using the the reserves because he said the budget has been operating that way for the last few years.
“We need to look at the big picture,” he said. “We need to come up with a multi-year financial plan that says this is were we are and this is were we are going to be in a two- or three-year cycle.
“We need to find a permanent solution.”
Etchegoyhen rebutted that he couldn’t see cutting a program when there was money in reserve to fund it.
The tentative budget asks the library to operate on the same amount of money it did last year and absorb inflation cost.
This would translate into a $15,000 to $20,000 hit, and would mean the library would not be able to keep up with employee costs or upgrade its computer system, according to Holler.
Commissioner Kelly Kite was adamant about not cutting the library’s budget any further.
He said he couldn’t see investing money in a Western Nevada Community College campus and then cut the library system.
“The library is and integral part of the educational system,” he said.
Etchegoyhen said he didn’t think it was fair to have all the cuts fall on one department.
“We need to equalize the pain,” he said. “I hate to single anyone out.”
The commission agreed unanimously with Commissioner Bernie Curtis’s motion to begin a hiring freeze that would be reviewed in March.
Other efforts to balance the room tax fund include:
n The Minden Airport budget would be cut by half which would save $62,000.
n The senior services fund was shuffled tp half in the general fund leaving $37,500 in the room-tax fund.
n $20,000 will be transferred from the room tax contingency fund.
Residents attending the meeting gave about an hour of testimony, offering solutions through volunteer efforts to keep parks and recreation programs and service in place.
Sheriff Jerry Maple said he was speaking as a citizen in regard to funding parks and drew applause.
He said as a father of six, any kids’ programs should be considered a priority.
“My suggestion is that Douglas County has to declare regional parks and that those parks are paid for,” he said.
Then community parks would be established to be built and maintained by the public, he said.
He added as an example, “Tell me which community park I belong to, give me the key and I’ll go over there on Saturdays and maintain it.
“We cannot continue to go to the room tax when the fund is declining. The county cannot be everything to everybody.”
Dorothy Uebele, a retired librarian, spoke on behalf of the library funds.
“I agree with Jerry Maple,” she said. “The citizens need to face up to the services they now receive.”
However, she added, she thought the parks and recreation and libraries are an excellent investment, because correctional facilities cost considerably more.
Patricia Settelmeyer, a Douglas County rancher, said, “I disagree with the statement that our children will go berserk and start using drugs.
“They won’t if their parents don’t let them.”
Pamela Pumphrey, 17, disagreed.
“My house was robbed three weeks ago by kids because they have nothing to do,” the Douglas High School student said. “Kids need something to do.
“If you guys are going to push that aside, then you can expect the crime rate to rise.”
Laurie Hickey rebutted, “My kids didn’t use any of the parks and they turned out fine.
“Frankly, I think we need to have some better parents.”
Jon Corley, the Carson Valley Roping Club adviser, offered more assistance to the parks department to offset the proposed cuts to the fairgrounds funding that would result in a reduction of days the grounds would be open.
“We can do things and cheaper than you can do it, and we are willing to do it,” he said.