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Henderson officials take budgetary bad news to the community

The news out of Henderson has been seemingly good for a long time, but city officials are now delivering news that is not so pleasant.

Possible tax increases. Service cuts. Delayed maintenance.

Richard Derrick, Henderson’s chief financial officer, delivered that message to a gathering of 35 people at the Neighborhood Leadership Forum on Tuesday.

Derrick emphasized the city has made cuts — $127 million from its budget during the past five years, eliminating 230 nonpublic safety positions — while trying to protect the services residents see firsthand, including fire, police, parks and roads.

“When I talk about cuts, we’ve tried to cut the back of the house as much as we can,” Derrick said. “The crossroads we’re at today is that the cuts coming forward … are those kinds of services that our citizens will see being reduced.”

City officials spoke Tuesday at a pair of community gatherings on the financial woes facing the city as the economy struggles to rebound. Recommendations presented included rate increases for city services, service cuts, alternatives to service delivery and revenue enhancements such as a 2015 ballot initiative to raise the city’s property tax rate as much as 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The city’s property tax rate has been 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation since 1991. The city has seen its property tax revenues decline from $85.7 million in 2009 to $58.5 million this year. Revenue from a tax increase would generate up to $16.5 million per year, according to a Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee report delivered to the City Council in February.

The city is facing as much as a $5 million budget shortfall this year and another $17 million in annual infrastructure deficits. Derrick said, however, the city still has an approximately $17 million general fund balance and a $17 million rainy day fund.

Fifteen residents attended the city’s presentation Tuesday evening at Whitney Ranch Recreation Center. The residents asked about the city’s employee pay structure, the need for certain maintenance and expressed concerns about increasing taxes on residents still struggling with the economy.

“You do understand people’s concerns about the city come for more,” Henderson resident Mark Alger said. “I think people are amenable to a point.”

The city is making it presentation, “Bridging the Budget Gap,” to about 35 groups of residents, businesses, homeowners’ associations, and various organizations during the next few weeks. The city manager’s office plans to present its recommendations at the May 6 city council meeting.

The next community meeting is at 6 p.m. today at the Henderson Multigenerational Center, 250 S. Green Valley Parkway.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3882. Follow on Twitter @KnightlyGrind

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